Philharmonic’s conductor bows out

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An interview with the Finnish conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in a Helsinki newspaper has struck a sour note in the Norwegian capital, where orchestra leaders are already looking for his replacement.

Jukka-Pekka Saraste after conducting Beethoven's Ninth at an outdoor concert in Oslo last summer. PHOTO: Views and News

Jukka-Pekka Saraste told newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that he won’t be staying in Oslo beyond the end of his current contract, which runs until 2013. He’s unhappy with the lack of international touring for the orchestra, and went so far as to call Norway’s government minister in charge of cultural affairs the Finnish equivalent of a scoundrel (vintiö).

“The Norwegian minister of culture is a scoundrel who isn’t at all interested in supporting the orchestra’s touring, even though it should be part of the trademark for an orchestra at this level,” Saraste told Helsingin Sanomat

He was also unhappy that industrial firm Norsk Hydro has cut its sponsorship of the Oslo Philharmonic after many years.

Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt confirmed that a state budget item for the orchestra’s touring was phased out in 2008, but stressed that the state funding didn’t disappear.

“To the contrary, it was added to the budget allocations for the orchestra so they could decide themselves how to use the money,” Huitfeldt told newspaper Aftenposten. She suggested Saraste direct his criticism at the orchestra’s management.

Orchestra director Odd S Gullberg thinks there must have been a misunderstanding. He confirmed that the touring funds became part of the orchestra’s overall budget, and added that the orchestra “got a decent boost” in this year’s budget.

“So I disagree with Saraste about that,” Gullberg told Aftenposten. He said Hydro’s funding had supported much of the orchestra’s international touring, but also noted that demand for performances had fallen in line with the global finance crisis. 

The search is on for Saraste’s replacement. Saraste himself stressed that he wasn’t quitting because of Huitfeldt.

“The lack of necessary sponsorships for international activities has become the most important problem between me and the Oslo Philharmonic,” he told Aftenposten, noting both sides agreed not to negotiate a renewal of his contract.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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