March 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of Sibelius’ last visit to the Norwegian capital and the occasion he conducted the Oslo Philharmonic in a historic performance of his first symphony. A century later, Sibelius’ music remains core to the orchestra’s repertoire and is the main theme of Klaus Mäkelä’s first season as Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor. Celebrating 100 years with Sibelius, the Oslo Philharmonic is streaming its latest performance of Symphony No. 1, filmed in concert with Klaus Mäkelä in October 2020. The performance premiere is on Thursday 18 March at 21.00 CET and available to watch for 30 days on the orchestra’s facebook and youtube channel.

Eystein Sandvik, NRK Radio

In March 1921, Jean Sibelius made his second visit to Oslo (“Kristiania”) on the invitation of the orchestra’s Chief Conductor, Georg Schneevoigt. The Oslo Philharmonic was just two years old and Sibelius was at the height of his fame. During his week-long visit, Sibelius conducted three concerts of his own music in three different venues, opening with a performance of Symphony No.1 at the University Aula with the Royal Family in attendance. For the orchestra the visit was a landmark success – bringing it front page news and colossal ticket sales – particularly important at a time of national ecomonic crisis.

Since those early years Sibelius’ music has been a main-stay of the Oslo Philharmonic’s repertoire through its work with Chief Conductors, including Herbert Blomstedt, Okko Kamu, Mariss Jansons and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. In 2015, the orchestra was awarded the Sibelius Prize in recognition of its close connection to the composer’s music and strong history of performing his repertoire.

“Sibelius’ music is in both my and the orchestra’s DNA” commented Klaus Mäkelä when he announced the theme of his first season with the Oslo Philharmonic – a focus on all seven symphonies by the Finnish composer. Whilst many of those concerts have had to be cancelled due to corona, a highlight of the opening weeks was the performances of Sibelius’ symphonies Nos 1, 6 and 7. “Under Klaus Mäkelä’s baton, Sibelius’ natural mysticism appeared more adventurous than I have ever previously heard,” commented Eystein Sandvik of NRK Radio. “Mäkelä showed a rare ability to make music appear as pure nature, as something that arises and develops spontaneously and unforced … The experience was almost as if the music flowed out of the orchestra as an unstoppable force of nature … “