The Lahti Symphony Orchestra and its principal conductor Dima Slobodeniouk will gain a new artistic partner when the conductor Anja Bihlmaier takes up the position of the orchestra’s principal guest conductor in the autumn of 2020. The contract, which runs until the end of the spring 2023 season, includes three to four concerts each year and an option for a two-year extension.
Anja Bihlmaier, a German conductor with a strong international career, first appeared with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in December 2018. Recently the Residentie Orchestra in the Hague, Holland, designated Bihlmaier as its principal conductor starting in the autumn of 2021. In the near future she will perform with orchestras including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. Bihlmaier is also a keen opera conductor and will soon appear in this capacity in Malmö, Vienna and elsewhere. She will next conduct the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in March 2020.
The Lahti Symphony Orchestra previously had a principal guest conductor alongside its principal conductor in the years 1995–98. At that time – during Osmo Vänskä’s time as principal conductor, the principal guest conductor was Joseph Swensen, and Juha Kangas was a regular guest conductor.
Bihlmaier, the orchestra and Slobodeniouk welcome the new contract
Conductor Anja Bihlmaier says she was deeply honoured to be invited to join the musicians and indeed the whole team of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra as principal guest conductor: ‘Their passion for bringing music to a wider public and high level of musicianship will enable us to unlock the secrets of the score and truly bring music to life. I am very much looking forward to sharing these special moments and to shaping an exciting journey together.’
General manager Teemu Kirjonen shares the orchestra’s joy at the coming collaboration: ‘Anja Bihlmaier’s first appearance with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in December 2018 aroused enormous enthusiasm both among our players and from the audience. She seems to get a similar reaction wherever she goes. And we are very happy that she found it rewarding to make music with our orchestra; the new contract means that she will conduct regularly in Lahti for some years to come.’
Principal conductor Dima Slobodeniouk is also enthusiastic: ‘Anja Bihlmaier is a conductor whose international career is very much looking up, and it is wonderful that she will enrich the musical life of Lahti with us. I believe that her great expertise and inspiring attitude will continue to take the orchestra’s musical work forwards.’
Anja Bihlmaier’s strong musical instinct and natural leadership have propelled her to rise fast amongst the ranks of emerging conductors both on the symphonic and operatic stages. From August 2021 the German conductor assumes the position of Chief Conductor of the Residentie Orkest, The Hague, with the title of Conductor Designate for 2020/21.
Bihlmaier’s early positions at the Staatsoper Hannover and Theater Chemnitz afforded many opportunities to conduct opera productions including Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin, Bizet Carmen, Massenet Werther, Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro and Dvořák Rusalka. With her appointment as 1st Kapellmeisterin and Deputy Music Director of the Staatstheater Kassel (2015-2018) she conducted a number of subscription concerts including Mahler Das Lied von der Erde in addition to opera productions. Last season she conducted Gounod Faust with Trondheim Opera and has been invited to conduct a number of productions at Volksoper Wien.
With repertoire ranging from Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schumann to Kodály, Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Louise Farrenc and Mikko Heiniö, Anja Bihlmaier has recently conducted the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Bremen Philharmonic and NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover whilst outside her native Germany she has lead the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Malmö Symphony, Lahti Symphony, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Trondheim Symphony, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, L’Orchestre Teatro Massimo Bellini and Toldeo Symphony.
The 19/20 season sees Anja Bihlmaier’s Japanese debut with the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra alongside engagements with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern, Lahti Symphony, Tampere Philharmonic and Sinfonieorchester St Gallen. In the pit she conducts Carmen and Die Fledermaus for Volksoper Wien and Benjamin Britten A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Malmö Opera.
Following studies at the Freiburg Conservatory of Music with Scott Sandmeier, Anja Bihlmaier won a scholarship to study with Dennis Russell Davies and Jorge Rotter at the Salzburg Mozarteum and attended masterclasses with Sian Edwards, Peter Gülke, Günther Herbig and Jac van Steen. She won further scholarships from the Brahms Foundation and was admitted into the Deutsche Dirgentenforum in 2005. In 2006 she was awarded third prize at the International Dimitris Mitropoulos Competition and was a finalist at the 2008 Donatella Flick Competition in London.