Take Sibelius home -Musiikkitalo’s concerts are on the radio, on television and online

Jean Sibelius enjoyed listening to the radio. The Helsinki Music Centre’s high-quality concert broadcasts would certainly have pleased the maestro.

Silence of Ainola

Sibelius was extremely precise with his own compositions and eager to hear their latest renditions. However, he avoided performing in public and stayed home regardless of requests. In the 1930s, after Sibelius had stopped composing almost entirely, he began spending more time in the Ainola library, seated in his armchair, smoking a cigar and listening to his beloved Telefunken 7001 WK radio.

 

Aino Sibelius described her husband’s pastime in a letter:

 

'At this very moment, his first symphony is being performed in Switzerland. Audibility is not too good, but the familiarity of the composition allows him to block out disruptive noises and focus on the music. Right now it is playing beautifully. You can imagine the enjoyment. Being able to sit here at home in the middle of the woods listening to his favourite music.'

 

The radio and the gramophone were Ainola’s centre. Every time there was a radio concert or Sibelius listened to his records, Ainola’s silence transformed into a pummelling force of music – the tones emptied the room of all elements that could disrupt the listening. Once Sibelius was so immersed in his maximum-volume enjoyment that he missed his guests subtly retreating to the yard, holding their ears. One bold guest, conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, finally had the courage to awaken Sibelius from his cloud of smoke and sound and get him to return to earth from his personal space of music. ‘I want to hear every semiquaver of the composition,’ was Sibelius’s explanation for his gramophone’s maximum volume. He would usually resume his listening session after saying this.

Roar of the concert halls

If Sibelius were alive in 2015, it would probably be hard to get him away from his radio, laptop or tablet.

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra broadcasts directly every week on Yle Radio 1 and online at yle.fi/klassinen; in addition, Yle Teema shows a live broadcast once a month. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra broadcasts approximately twice a month, either on the radio or online via Helsinki-kanava or Yle. University of the Arts Helsinki's Sibelius Academy and its Uniarts-TV station provide a versatile collection of events, ranging from contemporary opera to folk music.

 

The Helsinki Music Centre’s broadcasts are numerous, even on an international scale, and they utilize cutting-edge technology. Wide-reaching exposure for the Helsinki Music Centre’s events was already taken into account already when the building was designed. Everyone can access the nation’s best concerts in their living rooms.

 

Dozens of concerts are broadcast from the Helsinki Music Centre on the radio and globally through the Internet; the quality is so high that all semiquavers are audible at a much lower volume than Ainola had to endure. The concert hall is equipped with numerous microphones that record the grand orchestral pieces, including even the softest nuances of each instrument, and the backstage control room carefully works to create a well-balanced combination of sounds. Some of the microphones are principally used not for recording the music but for capturing the concert hall’s spatial sound. The hall’s acoustics are also therefore accessible through your speakers.

Cameramen and score reader

Online broadcasts are generally filmed with 15 cameras, most of which are controlled from the concert hall’s video control room. The video control room, which is located close to the hall’s ceiling, is manned by the director and cameramen, who keep making the decisions on what to record for the online and television audiences. They are assisted by a score reader, who is largely responsible for the camera’s success in picking up important details such as a two-second-long glockenspiel solo, just at the right time. This provides the audience with a greater effect than they can achieve through just listening.

 

Interviews conducted during the intermissions also offer something that regular concert goers cannot access on the scene. Most broadcasts are accessible for a set time after the concert on the Yle, Helsinki-kanava and Sibelius Academy websites. It is therefore possible for live music fans with Sibelius-level enthusiasm to host their guests even as the broadcast airs! 

Did you know

… that the ten-member Radio Orchestra’s first performance was on 1 September 1927, from 8 to 9:45 P.M? All that is known of the evening’s programme is that the orchestra performed Finnish music with violinist Hugo Huttunen as the soloist.
… that the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra began experimenting with radio broadcasts in 1926 and made them a regular activity in 1927?
… that in 1934, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra played a concert, led by the American conductor Werner Janssen, which was broadcast live via radio in North America? Sibelius’s third and fourth symphonies were performed together with the symphonic poem, Pohjola's Daughter.
… that Helsinki Music Centre’s website has a list of future broadcasts? Access the list by clicking on “Concerts and events” and then on “Musiikkitalo recommends. “