Sakari Oramo is to become BBC Symphony Orchestra’s next chief conductor UPDATED
Oramo has signed a three-year contract with an option for a further two years
Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo has engaged to become the new Chief Conductor of the London-based BBC Symphony Orchestra.
He has signed a three-year contract with an option for an extra two years. His term will begin at the BBC Proms Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in the summer of 2013.
The 46-year-old Oramo will leave his post as the chief conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) in Helsinki this spring. However, he will conduct the FRSO even in the future, for example at the Bartók Festival in Helsinki’s Music Centre next December. The star soloist will be András Schiff, who will play all Béla Bartók’s piano concertos.
Oramo is also the present chief conductor of both the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the West Coast Kokkola Opera. In addition, he will take up the position as the artistic director of the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra in 2013.
There are five symphony orchestras in London, and soon two of them will have Finnish chief conductors, as Esa-Pekka Salonen continues as the chief of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Among the five London-based orchestras, the BBC Symphony Orchestra is exceptionally adventurous, with a focus on 20th century and contemporary music.
The BBCSO's regular venue is the Barbican Centre. In the summer it serves as the backbone of the BBC Proms Festival at the Royal Albert Hall, one of the largest festivals in Europe.
The concerts of the BBCSO are also broadcast live by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
”During the first year there will be two Proms concerts as well as four concerts at the Barbican Centre, plus a couple of tours. After that there will be two to four Proms concerts every year and five Barbican concerts with the same accompaniments”, Oramo reveals in an email interview with Helsingin Sanomat. He is currently on a skiing holiday.
From 1998 to 2008 Oramo served as the Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. At that time, the terms of his contract prevented him from conducting the London orchestras. For the season 2008-2009, Oramo was the orchestra’s principal guest conductor.
Last autumn, Oramo was invited to come before the BBC Symphony Orchestra, whereupon both critics and the orchestra were fascinated. After having conducted one concert, Oramo received an offer to succeed the current Chief Conductor Jiri Belohlávek, who is to continue as the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in Prague from September 2012.
How would Oramo like to reform the BBC Symphony Orchestra?
”During rehearsals I did a lot of work in order to make them sound unconstrained, not as if it were all agreed upon in advance. I also tried to improve the orchestra’s team play”, Oramo notes, adding that the orchestra is in very good shape with many relatively new and very skillful musicians.
The news of Oramo's appointment was leaked - after a fashion - by the broadcaster and cultural commentator Norman Lebrecht on his Slipped Disc classical music blog on Wednesday evening.
Lebrecht felt that reporting the then unconfirmed news that the next BBCSO chief conductor would be "a Finn" was vague enough, considering that "there are so many outstanding candidates in that narrow strip that it could be any one of a dozen excellent and hard-working maestros, including two possible women".
In a late-breaking development, Sakari Oramo will also be in action in Helsinki tomorrow, as he has been asked to step in to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in its concert at the Music Centre, after the Philharmonic's 81-year-old conductor Lorin Maazel was taken ill in Sweden during the ensemble's world tour.
Maazel has cancelled his appearances in Helsinki, Copenhagen (Saturday), and Aalborg (Sunday).
Oramo agreed to deputise for all three engagements after the Vienna Philharmonic consented to change the programmes for the Copenhagen concert such that the orchesta will perform the same three Jean Sibelius symphonies (the 7th, 5th, and 1st, in that order) on three consecutive nights.
Sakari Oramo was a fairly natural choice for the visiting orchestra to turn to at short notice, as he had already been scheduled to make his début conducting them next year.
He has also recorded the complete symphonies of Sibelius, and is certainly no stranger to conducting these works.
He now makes his first formal acquaintance with the Vienna Philharmonic "on home turf", albeit with a minimum of preparation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Lorin Maazel brings Vienna Philharmonic to Helsinki this week (21.2.2012)
Sakari Oramo (Wikipedia)
BBC Symphony Orchestra release
Slipped Disc blog