Tauno Hannikainen as conductor of the HPO


When cellist-conductor Tauno Hannikainen took over as conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, he had been absent from Finland for 12 years and conducted orchestras mainly in the USA. Initially, he was to occupy the post for only a year, but then only Robert Kajanus had conducted the orchestra for a longer period, to be matched not for another 30 years after Hannikainen, by Leif Segerstam.

As a conductor, Hannikainen is said to have been even-tempered, consistent and efficient, and he conducted a large number of the concerts held during his term (1951–1963). In other words, guest conductors were rare for the HPO in the 1950s.

A favourite topic among music critics during the Hannikainen era was the small volume of Finnish music in the orchestra’s repertoire. Hannikainen nevertheless defended his programming policy: it is an orchestra’s job to play what the audience wants to hear, and that just happened to be works by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. In support of his argument, he carried out an audience survey. He did in fact get new music played, or at least tried to. For spring 1960 he planned to include Stockhausen’s Kontrapunkte 1, but unfortunately, not a single Helsinki pianist agreed to play it, claiming it was too difficult, and nothing came of the concert.

Hannikainen was very much in favour of transferring the concerts from the University Hall to a hall with better acoustics. Unfortunately, though a new concert hall had long been debated, none was forthcoming until Finlandia Hall was opened in 1972.

Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio – Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882–1982