From Finland to mdw

Young conductor Sauli Saarinen about his semester abroad

posted by Sauli Saarinen on December 17, 2020

Sauli Saarinen from Finland studies Conducting and is spending the 2020/21 winter semester at the mdw. In the International Blog he shares his experiences with us.

Tell us a bit about your personal background: what role did music play when you were growing up and why did you decide to study conducting? And what were your first experiences in conducting?

I am originally from a small town called Säkylä from the western part of Finland. When I was a child, I listened to a lot of classical music recordings and played the trumpet.

My interest in music eventually led me to study to become a professional trumpet player. After graduating from the Conservatoire of Tampere, I worked as a freelance trumpet player in several Finnish orchestras for many years.

Approximately 10 years ago, I conducted for the first time in my life. The orchestra was a local amateur wind ensemble in Tampere. I didn’t know anything about conducting techniques, so I asked a friend to show me all the hand gestures that I would need. Over the next couple of years, I found conducting very interesting and started to enjoy it a great deal. So, at some point, I realized that I liked conducting more than playing the trumpet. After that, it was clear to me that I wanted to study conducting.

Sauli conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in a masterclass

Why did you decide to study at the mdw? What were your first impressions of Vienna and the mdw?

Ever since the Viennese Classical Period, Vienna has been very famous for being the centre of classical music. Every year, I watch the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year and Summer Night concerts. I am very eager to learn and understand the famous Viennese tradition, how you play Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Haydn, Bruckner, etc.

At Musikverein

I was extremely impressed with Vienna and the mdw. I had never been in Austria before, so first I went to watch the concerts of the Vienna Symphonic, Vienna Philharmonic and Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Salome at the Vienna State Opera. I also went to many museums and had the time of my life as a real tourist. I rented a car and drove to Salzburg to see the Alps. We don’t have anything like that in Finland! I like studying at the mdw. The campus architecture is beautiful, and the staff and teachers are very friendly.

Regarding the Corona-situation, how are your studies at the mdw affected at the moment?

My studies are going fine. Professor Wildner has given me lots of new things to think about. I’m also studying opera conducting and choir conducting as a subsidiary subject, which is a wonderful addition to my studies. The biggest challenge during my time in Vienna has of course been Covid-19. Otherwise, everything has been great.

Sauli with professor Wildner

What do you enjoy most about living in Vienna, irrespective of the restrictions we face at the moment?

I love the architecture of the city, all the big parks and the fascinating history of this place! I go walking in Schönbrunn Park, Belvedere Park and the centre of your beautiful city as often as possible. People are very polite, and it’s very easy to get around thanks to the convenient public transport system.

Sauli at Schönbrunn

Tell us about Finland! What are typical activities and what would you describe as being “typically Finnish”?

People in Finland aren’t as sociable as people here in Austria. We enjoy solitude, peace and quiet. One very Finnish thing is the sauna. Some of my friends in Finland go to the sauna almost every day. In winter, it’s quite common for people to go ice swimming as well.

One of my favourite things – which I don’t find here in Austria – is Finnish salmiakki candy.

Finnish landscape

Finland and Austria: in your view, what are the most striking differences between these countries and what do we have in common?

So far, my time here has been so limited that the only differences I can think of are the obvious ones. The architecture (as I mentioned earlier), nature and your long, rich history.

The education system is quite similar. As in Austria, education is free for Finnish citizens from primary school to university.

As a Finn, I can be almost 100% sure that, wherever I go, nobody will speak my native language. German, on the other hand, is a very widely spoken language in Europe. Luckily, despite my poor German skills, the locals have been very helpful and understanding.

Sauli in class at mdw

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