World’s largest modern concert organ is Helsinki Music Centre’s crowning glory

January 2024 saw the unveiling of Musiikkitalo’s long-awaited new concert organ. The 124-stop organ has the distinction of being the largest modern concert hall organ in the world. It is also one of only two instruments of this kind that can also be considered works of art in their own right. The creation of the new organ was made possible through a significant donation from the composer Kaija Saariaho.

Inaugurated in January 2024, the new organ is our venue’s crowning feature. The scheme for a new organ was revived in 2017 following a one-million-euro donation from Kaija Saariaho. Further funding was provided by the City of Helsinki, the Ministry of Education and Culture and a number of charitable foundations. The total cost of the project was EUR 4.4 million. Further financial support came from a large number of private donors who sponsored individual pipes in their name. The truly one-of-a-kind instrument was handcrafted in Austria by Rieger Orgelbau.

Unlimited creative potential

From the project’s inception, what mattered was ensuring that the new organ would lend itself to performing new contemporary music. The organ was always envisaged as an instrument of the future, with a rich sound that suits many different types of music. With its thoughtfully chosen accessories and technical features, including microtonal pipes, adjustable pneumatics and a wide range of overtone stops, it offers a fascinating creative tool for composers. The instrument is equipped with two consoles, one positioned on the gallery with the organ proper and the other on stage. This allows the organist to be seated next to the conductor and in full view of the audience.

Initially, the plan was to build an organ with 50 to 60 stops, but during the course of the project the design doubled in size to 124 stops. The swell shutters are positioned horizontally, which offers significant advantages musically. They are designed to allow for expressive dynamic variation across all the divisions of the instrument. Every organ is a unique instrument with its own distinctive sound. For the Helsinki Music Centre organ, the focus was on achieving a typical German sound, complemented by a French-Romantic sound from the Récit division. Combining these two sounds is a distinctive and unique choice, and no other organ in the world is set up to offer it.

A feast for the eyes as well as the ears

Alongside the sound, the issue of how the organ’s façade should look was also debated extensively by the experts leading the design. Their priority was to ensure that, rather than the instrument being hidden away while not in use, it would be permanently visible to audiences in all its glory. The designers ultimately opted for a truly monumental design, and Helsinki Music Centre is now home to an organ that can be considered not only a musical instrument but also a work of art in its own right. There are currently only two organs of this kind in the world. When the swell shutters are open, visitors are able to see inside the instrument itself. Unusually, the 7,999 pipes that make up the organ are placed inside the instrument. Visible on the outside is the wind system, which is responsible for supplying air to the pipes.

According to the design team, what they wanted was to create a façade that would allow the organ to exist as a living organism within the concert hall. This is an instrument that breathes, after all. The visible wind lines draw their inspiration from a number of artists and architectural designs, both at home and internationally, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki. Notably, the wind lines are not just an aesthetic feature but also a functional part of the instrument. The ten wind lines at the front are flanked by four wooden pipes on either side. The organ and the audience not only inhabit the same space, they also breathe the same air.

A masterpiece built by a team of 60 experts from a variety of disciplines, the Helsinki Music Centre organ will be brought to life, time and time again, as the organist begins to play. In that moment, as the apparatus transforms into a musical instrument, the listeners will forget about the technology and embrace the art. There is no substitute for experiencing the gorgeous richness of the organ’s tonal palette and the live concert’s sonic impact first hand. We look forward to welcoming you at Helsinki Music Centre!


  • 2006

    • Construction begins on Helsinki Music Centre
    • A group of experts produces draft spatial and façade designs for a new organ
  • 2007

    • Organ project halted due to lack of funding
  • 2011

    • Helsinki Music Centre opens on 31 August 2011
  • 2017

    • Kaija Saariaho makes a donation of 1 million euros for the construction of a new organ at Helsinki Music Centre
    • The City of Helsinki, the Ministry of Education and Culture and a series of charitable foundations announce further funding for the organ project
    • Helsinki Music Centre Foundation set up an expert working group to oversee the organ project
    • Helsinki Music Centre Foundation launch a fundraising campaign in support of the organ project
  • 2018

    • Contract signed with Rieger Orgelbau
  • 2019

    • The Musiikkitalon Urut Soimaan association is set up to promote active creative engagement with the new organ
    • Structural work gets underway at Helsinki Music Centre during the summer season
  • 2020

    • The construction of the organ begins in Austria
    • A composition competition to identify new organ works launches in March
    • Structural work at Helsinki Music Centre resumes during the summer season
  • 2021

    • The first organ parts are delivered for installation in the Concert Hall during the summer
  • 2022

    • The fundraising campaign to support the use of the new organ hits EUR 220,000
    • The organ’s 8,000 pipes and mechanism arrive at Helsinki Music Centre for installation over the summer months
  • 2023

    • The results the composition competition are announced
    • The finishing touches are made to the organ’s sound and the façade is built during the summer season
    • The organ is tested during the last three months of the year
  • 2024

    • Helsinki Music Centre’s new organ is inaugurated on 1 January 2024
    • A documentary charting the organ project is broadcast

Frequently asked questions

Sources: urutsoimaan.fiUrkujen synty and organists Pekka Suikkanen and Jan Lehtola.

About Musiikkitalo

Our history

Musiikkitalo is the result of a joint endeavour by the Sibelius Academy, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. First opened to the public in August 2011, the building enjoys a prime location in central Helsinki, opposite Eduskunta, the Finnish Parliament.

Our resident organisations

The resident organisations at Musiikkitalo are: the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy.

Our architecture

At Musiikkitalo, our walls speak softly to lend focus to what really matters here; the music. The architects have created a venue that is designed to encourage openness and the exchanging of ideas.

Visual art at Musiikkitalo

Alongside music and architecture, you will also be able to enjoy visual art as part of your visit. Reijo Hukkanen’s Song Trees and Kirsi Kaulanen’s Gaia are both bespoke commission for Musiikkitalo.

Back to top