Following the European day of Early Music celebrated on 21st March, Bachtrack sets out this spring on a Grand Tour across Europe and beyond, to meet some of the most important period instrument performers and conductors. Today we meet Aapo Häkkinen, artistic director of the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra.

Aapo Häkkinen © Marco Borggreve
Aapo Häkkinen
© Marco Borggreve

The status of Baroque music in contemporary society is hard to define. Some children start learning music with the harpsichord for instance. Is Baroque still ancient ?  

Baroque is the earliest part of what is generally mainstream repertoire now. This is good, as a certain familiarity on the audience’s part certainly helps. (I’m talking of style, not of specific pieces … actually some of the Baroque ‘hits’ should better be avoided!)

History seems to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration. Historically informed performances have now explored more recent repertoires, such as 19th century music. How do you feel about this new trend? Where will it end?

I find it very welcome, and I’m personally very much involved with it. Most corners relating to 18th-century performing practice have at least been looked at – even if many remain lamentably neglected in practice – whereas 19th-century repertoire and instruments are clearly in need of thorough study and reassessment. Doing one’s homework should of course never end …

Going back to The Grand Tour theme, what is the thing you miss most when you go on tour? What are the difficulties of living ‘out of a suitcase’?

Very often the schedule is tight, and one simply has to concentrate on the concerts at hand …

Are there opportunities to explore the cities you travel to? What has been the most memorable tour destination?

This tends to happen when I travel for PR purposes … sometimes also with chamber music projects of a more relaxed kind. I always try to seize these opportunities to work on planning projects then – new programmes for example – as best ideas often appear away from your ordinary sphere of living, off schedule. Memorable things are usually connected to people and events rather than destinations, but I am already looking forward to my second tour of Vietnam in April!