Holding a population of less than 98,000 in 2002, Lahti, Finland, boasts a world-renowned symphony, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Sinfonia Lahti).
A distance of 100 kilometers north-northeast of Helsinki, the city and region see annual attendance of approximately 58,000. Under the leadership of conductor Osmo Vänskä and through an attractive contract with BIS, the Lahti Symphony has won acclaim for its performances of music by Baltic composers Sibelius, Joonas Kokkonen, Uuno Klami, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Kalevi Aho. Founded in 1949 as a restructuring of the orchestra maintained by the Lahti Friends of Music since 1910, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra offers nearly 100 performances annually, some of them given in Helsinki. It regularly appears at Nordic music festivals such as the Helsinki Festival, the Stockholm New Music Festival, and the Helsinki Biennale, devoted to contemporary music. It has toured extensively, performing in such countries as England, the United States, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, and Russia. At home, it performs in the new Sibelius Hall in Lahti, as well as the Church of the Cross, the venue for the orchestra's recordings. In addition to its symphonic, operatic, and recorded performances, the Lahti Symphony presents a range of programming for children and youth, all of it created to foster musical development. The orchestra's conductor, Osmo Vänskä, served the symphony as guest conductor from 1985 to 1988 before his appointment as chief conductor in 1988. Since then, he has become recognized as one of the world's leading orchestral directors, now also music director for the Minnesota Orchestra. Under his leadership, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra has won several international recording awards. Twice the winner of Gramophone Magazine's top award, it was honored for its recordings of the original versions of Sibelius' violin concerto and his Symphony No. 5 and En Saga. The orchestra was bestowed the Grand Prix of the Académie Charles Cros in 1993 for its recording of the complete score to Sibelius' The Tempest. In 1997, the Cannes Classical Award was given to the LSO for its recordings of the original version of Sibelius' Symphony No. 5 and the same composer's Wood Nymph. The complete orchestral works of Kokkonen and ongoing projects devoted to works by Klami, Rautavaara, and the orchestra's composer-in-residence Aho, are other significant recording contributions by this remarkable symphony. When Sibelius Hall opened in 2000, the symphony played the first Sibelius Festival. Recordings included Aho's Symphony No. 12 (2008) and various Sibelius performances.