In 1934, the HPO went on a Sibelius-oriented concert tour to London. The idea had been put forward by its conductor, Georg Schnéevoigt, on whose initiative the tour was arranged with a London agency and the Finnish Ambassador in London, G.A. Gripenberg. Sibelius did not accompany the tour.
In addition to public funding for the tour, a large sum was collected in the form of private donations. Many saw the tour as being fundamentally a means of marketing Finland and things Finnish, which is why companies, for example, were generous with their contributions. The name adopted by the orchestra in English for the tour – “The Finnish National Orchestra” – also stressed its ethnic origins.
The repertoire consisted for the most part of Sibelius (symphonies, The Swan of Tuonela, Pohjola’s Daughter, Night Ride and Sunset, etc.), but at Sibelius’s own suggestion, it also included works by Finnish composers less known at the time, such as Klami, Raitio and Palmgren.
The concerts sold well, though those with a larger Sibelius content were more popular than the others. All in all, the reviews were excellent. Several hundred reviews and articles were written after the three London concerts in the foreign press alone, but the Finnish press also reported them in enthusiastic terms. The performances of Sibelius evoked particular enthusiasm and praise in the London audiences.
Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio-Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882–1982
Picture: HPO's archive