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  • Writer's pictureHelsingin Kamariorkesteri

Member of the Week - Helmi Malmgren

"All music was contemporary music at the time it was composed."

Helmi Malmgren is a young and diverse clarinetist based in Helsinki. She is regularly performing in orchestras and festivals all around Finland. In addition, music has taken her to the Nordic countries, the USA, Canada, France, Spain and Romania.

Chamber music and ensemble playing is closest to her heart and playing together with friends has always played a vital role in her music-making. She is a founding member of a wind quintet Helmikvintet and plays in the ranks of Ääni-kollektiivi. Playing in orchestras is also a great pleasure to her and she has been working in several professional orchestras regularly such as Avanti! chamber orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta and Helsinki Theatre orchestra.

Malmgren can often be heard playing contemporary music and seen on stage doing cross-disciplinary performances. She enjoys working with living composers and trying to find new ways and techniques getting their visions alive. She has given several premiere performances of classics-to- be in Finland and abroad.

Malmgren has studied in Sibelius Academy with Harri Mäki, Olli Leppäniemi and Asko Heiskanen. She has also spent time studying in Norwegian music academy and Paris conservatory.

"I have always loved to play and perform chamber music and it has always been a major part of my musicianship. I have a strong memory from my childhood when I had a rehearsal with my chamber music group and I was feeling very happy and energized afterwards. On the way home my mom came to me and said: ” Imagine, some people are doing this for a living!” The idea started to grow in my mind.

When every player is bringing their own experience and musical vision the final result can be very juicy. I have personally learned so much from my colleagues (and I still continue to do so!) that I regard Helsinki chamber orchestra as a great possibility for us musicians to learn from each other.

The fact that everyone can have their voice and opinion heard means both a great gift and responsibility. In order for this to work no one can just passively play what's written on the score and let the others decide the musical interpretation. But I really don't think this is going to be an issue.

I think all music-making should be "chamber-music like". What it means is not necessarily saying your opinion to all the matters but for musicians to react to one another's impulses and also actively give them. The focus should be in the combined sound of all the players and every one knows more or less what the others are going to play. I think this kind of thinking can be applied to all the groups.

All music was contemporary music at the time it was composed. Throughout the history of music composers were trying to create new things that people weren’t used to hear and to therefor develop classical music. I find it extremely interesting to go and see things people are creating in our time. There's a huge number of contemporary art collectives in Finland, e.g. orchestras, ensembles, dance groups and galleries that have a very interesting program if you just go out and look for it!

The possible resistance the music of our time may encounter might come from people’s need to ’understand’ and categorize things. If you see or hear something you’ve never experienced before it might feel difficult to put frames to it but with time you’ll get used to it. I don’t think new music should need to be promoted per se, I feel like it should be an obvious part of every ensemble’s and orchestra’s repertoire. 

In the spring season I’m looking very much forward to play the Dreams and prayers of Isaac the Blind by Osvaldo Golijov. The piece is written for a klezmer clarinet and strings and I’m eager to get to explore this style of music that clarinet is so suitable for!"

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