Member of the Week - Aku Sorensen
"I have always believed, and I know I'm not alone in this, that all music played at its best is chamber music... My dream is for HCO to serve as a place for young professionals to discover how to preserve [this]."
Praised for “artistic and interpretive bravery”, Aku Sorensen, 21, is a Finnish-American violinist raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and now based in Finland. A very active orchestral musician, Aku has played in and led countless pre-professional orchestra and is a heavily utilized substitute with various Finnish professional orchestras, notably including a current contract with the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. Aku is also very busy outside the world of orchestral music, working as a conductor, producing the NYKY contemporary music ensemble, and performing in numerous chamber ensembles.
Aku was a founding member of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, driven by both his passion for chamber music and love for orchestral playing, and serves as its concertmaster.
How did you become involved with HCO, and what visions do you have for the orchestra?
In many ways, the birth of the orchestra was the perfect storm. James and I had spoken passingly before about how fun it would be to start our own chamber orchestra, but we were busy and it was a passing fancy. Then, in April of 2018 I found myself sitting in the opening concert of the RSO chamber music festival and realizing just how much I missed playing in a chamber orchestra. At the same time, James had been getting advice from Aleksi Malmberg of HKO on starting an orchestra and chatting with Martin Malmgren, who would become our third founding member. With renewed vigor, we called a meeting in May and the rest is history.
For me, HCO is a sea of possibilities. First and foremost, it is a laboratory for experimenting with orchestral playing for a new generation of musicians. I have always believed, and I know I am not alone in this, that all music played at its best in chamber music. The connectivity you experience with other players and the energy it produces is unmatched and leads to incredibly high-level music making. Unfortunately, it is very easy to lose this connection in orchestras, and my dream is for HCO to serve as a place for young professionals to discover how to preserve that principal of reactivity and chamber musical playing. Beyond this, I think it’s very important the new generation of musicians has a place to try out new things, independent from the influence of the established generations.
Apart from orchestra playing, you have also been highly active as a chamber musician, conductor, educator, as well as concert producer. Challenging as it must be to keep so many balls in the air simultaneously, do you feel that these activities complement one another?
I very deeply believe in the idea of the “informed musician”. Philosophically, this means I think that a musician should know as much as possible to help inform their performance of a work, whether that means understanding relevant history, applicable philosophy, analytical music theory, or something else. In the spirit of this, I think every musician should dabble in as many aspects of music as possible. Work as a chamber musician and a conductor helps me achieve a deeper understanding of orchestral playing in all of its aspects. Work as an educator and producer has helped me think of things from an outside perspective, with a deep appreciation for the work that goes into putting on a concert and a passion for audience education. Despite how busy it makes me, I think it grants me valuable perspective.
"There is a want to create and to try new things, and the connection and collaboration within the ensemble is palpable."
While HCO is still in its infancy, is there something with this orchestra that is unique, and unlike other orchestras you have worked with up until now?
To me, HCO is unique in that it is a catalyst for youthful energy. We’ve only met once, but on promo day when we played, the room was electric. There is a want to create and to try new things, and the connection and collaboration within the ensemble is palpable. Although I’ve experienced it before, it’s always been an outlier. I believe and hope that if the HCO operates under its founding principles, this will be the default as opposed to the occasional outlier.
What has the process of planning concert programs and repertoire looked like?
Planning the concert programs for our first season has been exhilarating. More or less what has happened is our team has met for lunch and asked simply: What do we want to play? We’ve built five incredible programs that build some of our favorite works into thematic programs which should be exciting for both the audience and orchestra alike.
Is there anything you’re particularly excited for?
Honestly, the first rehearsal. Promo day was super fun and the energy was fantastic, but I can’t wait to get properly started. The program of our inaugural concert happens to be fantastic, and the philosophy of HCO, which tries to solicit input from all of the orchestral members and encourage debates, should make rehearsals very interesting. Also, even though I’ve done a lot of production work, sitting and planning for 6 months only goes so far. There’s nothing like getting to work, discovering new things, and finally, getting to share that with audiences.