A Finnish musician, performing with the Baltic Sea tour on 19 April at the Helsinki Music Centre: ‘For Kristjan, it is most important that the audience enjoys itself.’

Kaisa Kortelainen is a flautist with the Baltic Sea Philharmonic. The programme of this tour may well be the most exquisite during my time with the orchestra’, says Kaisa. The programme includes evergreen favourites such as the Karelia Suite by Sibelius, and Firebird by Stravinsky. In the interview, Kaisa explains what life is like when you are touring with a leading international orchestra.

How did you hear about the orchestra?
I have played in the Baltic Sea Philharmonic since 2013. At that time, I was able to join the orchestra after auditions in Tallinn; I had heard of the auditions during my studies at Sibelius Academy. I seem to remember that I saw an advertisement for the upcoming auditions on the school’s wall.

Why did you become interested in the orchestra?
An orchestra can be compared to complicated machinery which, at its best, unites the skills of many talented people to create something that none of us can do on our own. In addition to the desire to just play together, what attracted me to the Baltic Sea Philharmonic was the international character of the orchestra. With the orchestra, I have been able to see the most magnificent concert halls around Europe, and visit cities that I most likely would not have been to otherwise – and also meet new people.

What is it like when the orchestra is rehearsing?
During the practice period, our days are quite long: because of the average age of the players, the repertoire is new to many of us, and we need to reserve a bit more time for fine-tuning. At the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, our practice periods always include rehearsals per section, making it easier to hone the finer points of the music within a smaller group. Part rehearsals are led by coaches, who often also give important general advice on orchestra work and preparing for auditions.

Compared to a Finnish orchestra, what is it like to practice in an international one?
In an international orchestra, various schools are mixed (I here mean the playing traditions prevalent in each country) as are ways of working, which is always an eye-opening experience.

What have you learned in the orchestra?
Touring life.  We work hard in a tight-knit community, and it has taken a while to learn how to find your own peace, time to practice also on your own, time to sleep, and time to concentrate before performances amidst ever-changing scenery, bringing your mind calmly to the space and time you are currently in.  It is not always easy, as during tours we often arrive at the country of the concert on the same day, so that within a couple of hours or so we already need to be in a new concert hall, getting ready to meet the acoustic environment of the evening, the atmosphere of the event, and the audience.

Now that you are rehearsing for the upcoming tour, how much do you, the members of the orchestra, think of the Baltic Sea and the environment?
This question I can only answer for myself, but, personally, I am extremely delighted that the orchestra participates in this project for the Baltic Sea. It is inconceivable how callously people have thought of, and still think of, trash, polluting the environment, and climate change. In my life, I try more and more to live so that I burden the environment as little as possible. In this sense, tours like this and my life in general, which involves a lot of travelling, seem pretty cheap and hypocritical. I try to compensate for the effect of my travelling by recycling, and refraining from buying almost anything brand new.

It is a brilliant idea that art can be used to do something good in a concrete sense. The works selected for the tour are successful in that each of them does evoke a landscape of its own in the mind of the listener. As I answer the questions of this interview, Kristjan Järvi has not yet joined the tour, but I am eagerly awaiting what he has to say on the topic of the Baltic Sea.

What is Kristjan Järvi like as a conductor?
For Kristjan, it is most important that the audience enjoys itself. In my view, he has an attitude that the world of classical music, still to some extent stuck in its ivory tower, should welcome. A subdued concert etiquette is still very much alive, keeping many people at bay. We can and should have everything, and I believe Kristjan’s way of making music will very likely attract an all-new kind of audience.

What do you think of the concert programme, what are your comments on the pieces performed (to us laymen). Any particular favourites?
The programme of this tour may well be the most exquisite during my time with the orchestra. The programme includes evergreens, such as Stravinsky’s Firebird and the Karelia Suite by Sibelius.  If I must name a particular piece from the programme as my favourite, I guess I must admit it is the second movement of the Karelia Suite, Ballade. I am currently studying for a Master’s degree at the conservatory of Paris, and cannot visit Finland very often. For me, Ballade represents something profoundly Finnish which I notice that I miss in France, sometimes sorely.

What does the Baltic Sea mean to you? Please share a memory of the Baltic Sea.
As I am originally from the lakeside landscapes of Eastern Finland, I have always experienced the sea as something that is tremendously powerful, almost scary. At its side, you feel small, but just in the right way: your focus is moved outside of yourself, enabling a feeling of belonging.

One of my most treasured memories involving the Baltic Sea is about a day, late in the summer, when a walk in Eira with a friend ended up as an adventure in Suomenlinna and a spontaneous swim. Naturally, neither of us had a swimming suit with us, so we swam in our underwear hoping that no-one would notice us. The sea was still warm, and as I accidentally swallowed some of its salty water I thought to myself that this is the taste of real life.