Sep 19, 2015

Jean Sibelius, Finland’s perhaps greatest contribution to the world’s musical heritage, was born 150 years ago. In honor of this, concerts are taking place all over Finland and the world. While he is perhaps best known for his symphonies and his violin concerto, and, of course, for Finlandia hymn – the symphonic poem which is practically Finland’s second national anthem – he also composed many songs to texts by contemporary poets. Many of them were in Swedish, his mother tongue (one of Finland’s two official languages).

Olga Heikkilä is a Finnish lyric soprano with already an impressive international career. Educated in Finland and Denmark, she made her US debut with a series of Sibelius’ songs, accompanied by Kalle Toivio on piano in the lovely hall upstairs at Estonian House in New York City. The program choices offered a chance to hear not only well-known songs such as “Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote” and “Var det en dröm”, but also several lesser-known ones. Although Ms. Heikkilä was visibly pregnant, her voice was both strong and sensitive, and the collaboration with Mr. Toivio, who has been heard many times in this, his present hometown, was seamless. The evening ended with Mr. Toivio’s signature bravura performance of Finlandia with Ms. Heikkilä singing.

The audience appreciated the concert being offered for free, thanks to pro bono appearances by the artists, and support from Finlandia Foundation New York Metropolitan Chapter, Finlandia Foundation national, Suomi-seura, and Musiikin Edistämissäätiö (Finland).