Osmo Vänskä, VocalEssence, and the Finland-Minnesota connection

Posted on: September 27, 2017

“Celebrations of Finland’s centennial—100 years since the nation achieved independence—are worldwide this year, but they carry special weight in Minnesota, where so many Finns migrated in the early 20th century,” writes Michael Anthony in Tuesday’s (9/25) Star Tribune (Minneapolis). “Since 2003, when Osmo Vänskä became music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Finland-Minnesota connection has gained strength…. Another faithful exponent of the Finnish miracle has been Philip Brunelle,” artistic director and founder of Minnesota’s VocalEssence choral music organization. “These two forces came together in a concert Sunday afternoon at the American Swedish Institute…. The program, conducted by Brunelle … featured Vänskä as clarinet soloist. Brunelle’s program focused on … choral music and folk fiddling [and] drew on the work of about a dozen mostly contemporary Finnish composers, such as Kaija Saariaho and [Einojuhani] Rautavaara…. For this performance, featuring Vänskä and tenor Robert Graham, composer Olli Kortekangas arranged a new version of three of his songs based on melodies compiled in the 16th century. Joined by the men of Brunelle’s Ensemble Singers, Vänskä also played the sweet and gentle ‘Evening Prayer’ by Mikko Heiniö…. The program opened and closed with Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’—but the preponderance of new and recent compositions suggested that music remains a vital force in Finland.”

Posted September 27, 2017