The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the first professional symphony orchestra to be founded in the Nordic countries (1882), has been operating without a break for over 135 years. It has grown from a band of 36 players to an orchestra of 102 regular members giving concerts attended by a total audience of a good 100,000 a year at the Helsinki Music Centre and abroad.
Between 1892 and 1923 the HPO gave the first performances of almost all the symphonic works by Jean Sibelius with the composer himself conducting. The HPO’s founder and first chief conductor Robert Kajanus was succeeded by Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, John Storgårds and other conductors of note. Susanna Mälkki was appointed chief conductor in the autumn of 2014 for the period 2016–21.
Since the autumn of 2011 the newly constructed Helsinki Music Centre has been the orchestra’s new home venue. In addition to the 70–80 concerts it gives each year in Helsinki, the HPO regularly tours abroad. The first foreign visit was to the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. The orchestra has visited most European countries, the United States, Japan, South America and China.