Classical Music Series: A Finn Thing Comes to Astoria

Finnish pianist Ruusamari Teppo (right) poses with Jussi Makkonen.

My husband and I recently attended the debut Classical Music Series Concert at the Astoria Liberty Theater. We were treated to the Portland Chamber Orchestra with Maestro Yaacov Bergman and Ruusamari Teppo, a professional concert pianist, and a true Finn.

Ruusamari Teppo is a direct descendent of the Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). That was a big draw to several Finnish cultural enthusiasts, including my husband and me. She began her piano studies at the age of four in Finland. She graduated from the prestigious Sibelius Music High School, and then studied piano for three years in Paris. Teppo then moved to the United States to study with the world-renowned pianist Vladimir Viardo. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in piano performance at the University of North Texas.

We were honored to hear her play with the Portland Chamber Orchestra. She was amazing Our own Finnish American/Folk festival coming up the end of July 2018, would be a wonderful venue for her. (We can dream!)

A favorite piece performed by Ruusamari Teppo and the Chamber Orchestra was “Andante Festivo,” written (of course) by Jean Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer.  He was also the most well-known composer in all of Scandinavia. He originally wrote this piece in 1922, for the 25th anniversary of the famous plywood mill, Saynatsalo, in Finland.

Sibelius was always inspired by nature when he wrote his music, using hushed and solemn chords, written in a slow pace. He later arranged the same work for strings and timpani, to be broadcast on New Year’s Eve in 1939, as a greeting to the world at the World Exhibition in New York.  During the recording session at the Helsinki radio station, he told his performers to “Play with more humanity.”  It made an emotional statement to the world about to be affected by the war. “Andante Festivo” continues to be played in Finland during special solemn state occasions.

Jean Sibelius also wrote Finnish works such as “Finlandia” in 1899, a beloved anthem in Finland and around the world.  This anthem was later arranged by Sibelius for choral performance. Choirs and audiences alike become emotional when performing and listening to this anthem.  Our own Naselle Community Choir has sung this piece with pride at our local Finnish/American Folk festival. “Finlandia” speaks of the pride for Finland and the oppression that it had to overcome.

The next event to appear at the Liberty Theatre Classical Concert series is the Schubert Ensemble of London coming on October 4. Then, audience members will be treated to the Tacoma Opera on November 17.  I am looking forward to both!!

See you there! Kiitos! Barb

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