The Finnish Baroque Orchestra (= FIBO) was founded by harpsichordist Anssi Mattila in 1989. For twenty years it was called The Sixth Floor Orchestra. The Finnish Baroque Orchestra consists of musicians well versed in the performance practice of early music and the instruments for which each type of music was written. In addition to all the major Finnish music festivals the orchestra has appeared in many parts of Europe.
The Finnish Baroque Orchestra specialises in performance on period instruments - a mode of performance requiring profound study of the practices and instruments of the period in which a work was composed. Its foremost feature is, however, its fresh, vibrant and open-minded desire to establish a fresh approach to early music.
These days FIBO is collaborating with artists like Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch, Georg Kallweit, Topi Lehtipuu, Hannu Lintu, Sandrine Piau, Karina Gauvin, Juha Kangas, John Storgårds, Aleksei Lybimov, Piia Komsi, Wolfgang Gaisböck, Andres Mustonen, Björn Colell, Alfredo Bernardini, Marianne Beate Kielland, Arttu Kataja, Erich Hoeprich.
Finland’s first Baroque orchestra was born in 1989. A group of music students and young musicians familiarized with Baroque music began practicing together with the guidance of Anssi Mattila, a harpsichord teacher at Sibelius Academy. The groundwork for the activity was laid in a major project in spring of 1985, when Helsinki’s Chamber Strings had performed J.S. Bach’s complete essential orchestral works with modern instruments. The rehearsals of Mattila’s group held place in the sixth floor of Sibelius Academy’s building in Fredrikinkatu (Fredrik’s street). This is how the youthful group came up with the name Sixth Floor Orchestra.
The group debuted as the Sixth Floor Chamber Orchestra at YLE’s Music before romanticism - festival in the German church of Helsinki on November 25, 1989. The program consisted of French and Italian works: Carlo Farina’s Capriccio Stravagante and Jean-Féry Rebel’s Les Elements and Caprice.
Especially the pioneers in Holland and Belgium active at the end of the 1960’s have shaken our perceptions of 17th and 18th centuries’ music and how to perform it. Founding The Sixth Floor Orchestra linked Finland with this baroque music movement born in Central Europe. Baroque masterpieces played true to the style of the era with periodic instruments could be heard for the first time in Finland in the orchestra’s concerts in the 1990’s. At that time the orchestra performed among other things J.S. Bach’s Brandeburg Concertos, cantatas and the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), George Frideric Handel’s Messiah Oratorio, Arcangelo Corelli’s concerto grossos, Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos and Henry Purcell’s odes.
The orchestra took part in the performance of J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) for the first time in 1999 and since 2001 it has acted as the orchestra in the traditional St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) performance of the mixed choir Suomen Laulu. The composer’s Mass in B minor (BWV 232) became a part of the orchestra’s repertoire in spring 2000. In addition to the essential works, interesting rarities have always been a part of the concerts as well. During Mattila’s term of leadership the orchestra also took part in Baroque opera performances, of which many were collaborations with the multi-artistic association Taite ry. These performances were of Les Arts Florissants by M.-A. Charpentier, Orfeo ed Eurydice by Ch.W. Gluck, Dido and Aeneas by Purcell and Ulysse by Rebel.
At the end of his term Anssi Mattila conducted the orchestra’s first commercial CD-recording, which consisted of A. Vivaldi’s concertos and was released in 2001 on Alba label. In the autumn of the same year the orchestra travelled abroad for the first time. The trip was directed at the festival of old music in St Petersburg.
Cellist Jukka Rautasalo followed Mattila as the artistic director in 2001. He expanded the orchestra’s repertoire from Baroque to 18th and 19th centuries’ classicism. The repertoire focused on W.A. Mozart and less known Finnish music of the era. Rautasalo did groundbreaking work conducting amongst other things works by B.H. Crusell, Erik Ferling and Erik Tulindberg. The orchestra captured this repertoire also on record: “Classical Age in Finland” was released in 2001 on Ondine label. In 2003 the orchestra visited the festival of old music in Regensburg in Germany. In summer 2004 it was time to record Mozart’s masterwork Gran Partita. The record came out in autumn 2005 on Alba label.
Conductor Tuomas Hannikainen (formerly Ollila) began his post as the orchestra’s third artistic director in the beginning of 2005. He planned the concert series L.v. Beethoven from the roots: The orchestra performed all the L.v. Beethoven symphonies as well as some lesser-known works from the period with great success. Three concerts with drama performances brought additional colour to the 2009 season.
The FIBO functions versatilely in Finnish music field. It has performed regularly at Helsinki Festival, Turku Music Festival and YLE’s Music before romanticism - festival. It has also visited for example Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, Crusell Music Festival in Uusikaupunki, Vantaa Baroque and the Musiikkia linnassa - event in Hämeenlinna. Tapiola Chamber Choir, the Academic Choral Society (AL), Helsinki Chamber Choir (formerly known as the Finnish Radio Chamber Choir) and Suomen Laulu choir have acted as partners in grand vocal works. Many Finnish frontline experts in old music have performed as orchestra’s soloists, including Tuija Hakkila, fortepiano, and Mikael Helasvuo, flute, and vocalists Anu Komsi, Topi Lehtipuu and Petteri Salomaa.
International cooperation has been lively as well. Many foreign experts on rare instruments have participated in concerts and many renowned international artists have performed as leaders and soloists for the orchestra. Amongst them are conductors Tõnu Kaljuste, Andrew Lawrence-King, Andrew Manze, and instrumental soloists Jaap ter Linden, Gabriele Gassone and Omar Zaboli, and vocalists Mikael Bellini, David Cordier and Ian Honeyman. At the end of the first decade of the 21st century cooperation with Georg Kallweit, concertmaster for Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, was begun. He was the main guest star of the FIBO 2008-2011. In addition the orchestra has given several Baroque concerts and collaborated with choirs like Cantores Minores, Dominante, Suomen Laulu...
The Sixth Floor Orchestra was honored with the musical achievement of the year - distinction granted by YLE in 2000 for their performance of the Ulysse-opera. Their CD-recording “Classical Age in Finland” contains all the 18th century Finnish orchestral music that has been preserved, and it was awarded an honorary mention in the 2001 Record of the Year poll by the music editors of the Finnish BroCompany (YLE) and the Janne Prize of the Finnish National Group of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).