Sergiu Comissiona as conductor of the HPO


Sergiu Comissiona (1928–2005), a conductor of Romanian descent who emigrated to the United States in the 1960s, was appointed conductor of the HPO in 1990. Before that, he had guest conducted the orchestra a few times in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His previous appointments had included terms with the Romanian State Opera, the Israel Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony.

Comissiona’s salary caused more than the usual amount of discussion in the press, both at the time and thereafter, for people in Finland were not then accustomed to the fees quite commonly paid elsewhere in the world. Great expectations were levelled at him.

At first, praise for Comissiona was lavish, and people felt he had improved the standard of the orchestra’s playing. But the Finnish critics soon turned against him, especially in the columns of Helsingin Sanomat. His conducting of the hallowed Sibelius Violin Concerto in 1990 caused an angry outcry. Comissiona resigned in 1993 because he did not like Helsinki and felt the critics were against him.

As a conductor, Comissiona was described as a virtuoso, likeable, and a good rehearser.

Sources: Wikipedia, Helsingin Sanomat & Jaani Länsiö  –  ”Valtakunnan hapannaama” Kriitikko Seppo Heikinheimon lehtikirjoitukset Helsingin kaupunginorkesterista vuosina 1987‒1997