Olli Mustonen

Olli Mustonen_16-04-25_018 credit Heikki Tuuli

“He gives his whole body to the performance every time…He gives his soul too. He is a living dream of pianism, having broken through an expressive barrier that other players do not know exists.” – The Sunday Times

“As a musical interpreter, Olli Mustonen the conductor is very like Olli Mustonen the pianist. Detail after detail is finely articulated, as though etched with the point of a needle… the clarity and extraordinary finesse yield something I can only describe as visionary.” -BBC Music Magazine

Olli Mustonen has a unique place on today’s music scene. Following the tradition of great masters such as Rachmaninov, Busoni and Enescu, Mustonen combines the roles of his musicianship as composer, pianist and conductor in an equal balance that is quite exceptional. Born in Helsinki, Mustonen began his studies in piano, harpsichord and composition at the age of five. Initially learning with Ralf Gothoni, he subsequently studied piano with Eero Heinonen and composition with Einojuhani Rautavaara.

As a concerto soloist, Mustonen has worked with most of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and The Royal Concertgebouw, partnering conductors such as Ashkenazy, Barenboim, Blomstedt, Boulez, Chung, Dutoit, Eschenbach, Harnoncourt, Masur, Nagano, Oramo, Salonen and Saraste.

As a recitalist, Mustonen plays in all the world’s musical capitals, appearing in recent seasons at the Chopin Institute Warsaw, Diaghilev Festival Perm, Mariinsky Theatre St Petersburg, Wigmore Hall, Tampere Hall, Flagey Brussels, Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Dresden Festival, Sala Verdi Del Conservatorio Milan, Symphony Center Chicago, New York Zankel Hall and Sydney Opera House.

Among Mustonen’s close connections with some of today’s most illustrious musicians is his collaboration with Rodion Shchedrin, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 5 to Mustonen and invited him to perform at his 70th, 75th and 80th birthday concerts. In 2013, Mustonen performed Shchedrin’s Piano Concerto No. 4 at Stockholm’s Baltic Sea Festival with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra under Valery Gergiev. In 2011, Mustonen had the honour of closing the Moscow Easter Festival at the personal invitation of Gergiev, in a performance which was televised all over Russia. In 2014, he was soloist at the Closing Ceremony of the Winter International Arts Festival in Sochi, and returns this season for the Opening Concert, performing with the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra under Yuri Bashmet.

A strong exponent of Prokofiev’s music, Mustonen is currently performing and recording all of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos with the Finnish Radio Symphony under Hannu Lintu, and in the current season, performs the 2nd concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. Mustonen is unusual in offering the complete cycle of Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, in recent years bringing the project in full or in part to Helsinki Music Centre, Amsterdam Muziekgebouw. Helsingborg Piano Festival and Singapore Piano Festival; this season sees further performances on tour in Belgium and the Netherlands, and at the Ruhr Piano Festival.

Also close to Mustonen’s heart is the music of Beethoven, all of whose concertos he played with the Melbourne Symphony in 2012, and of Bartok, whose concertos he performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony in the same year. This season, Mustonen gives performances of Respighi’s Concerto in modo misolidio with the Orchestra of Teatro Lirico di Cagliari in Italy and the Pannon Philharmonic in Hungary.

Mustonen’s life as a composer is at the heart of both his piano playing and conducting. He has a deeply held conviction that each performance must have the freshness of a first performance, so that audience and performer alike encounter the composer as a living contemporary. In this respect he recalls Mahler’s famous dictum, that tradition can be laziness, yet he is equally suspicious of the performance that seeks only to be different. This tenacious spirit of discovery leads him to explore many areas of repertoire beyond the established canon.

In recent years, Mustonen has conducted the world premières of both of his large-scale orchestral works: Symphony No.1 Tuuri with the Tampere Philharmonic in 2012; and Symphony No.2 Johannes Angelos with the Helsinki Philharmonic in 2014. Under Mustonen’s baton, the 1st Symphony has gone on to receive further performances with the Tchaikovsky Symphony and Meiningen Court Orchestra among others. Mustonen conducted the world premières of his Sonata for Violin and Orchestra with the Melbourne Symphony in 2014, and of his Sonata for Cello and Orchestra with the Australian Chamber Orchestra in 2015; a further performance of the latter took place with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta at the 2016 Amsterdam Cello Biënnale.

As well as all the major Finnish orchestras, Mustonen has conducted the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Weimar Staatskapelle, WDR Cologne, Camerata Salzburg, Scottish Chamber, Verdi Symphony Orchestra Milan, NHK Symphony and Queensland and West Australian symphony orchestras. In a fascinating triple role of pianist, conductor and composer, Mustonen has appeared recently with the Atlanta Symphony, New Russia Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony, Riga Sinfonietta, Estonian National Symphony and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. The current season sees him working in such a capacity with the Bologna and Poznan Philharmonic orchestras among others.

Bringing his own works to the chamber music stage, Mustonen toured Germany in 2015 with his own Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Piano, and performed the world première of his new Piano Quintet at the ‘Spannungen’ Festival in Heimbach; this season he takes the work to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. Mustonen’s recital partners include Pekka Kuusisto, with whom he gave the 2013 world première of his own Violin Sonata, and Steven Isserlis, with whom he tours the UK this season, including an appearance at Wigmore Hall.

Olli Mustonen’s recording catalogue is typically broad-ranging and distinctive. His release on Decca of Preludes by Shostakovich and Alkan received the Edison Award and Gramophone Award for the Best Instrumental Recording. In 2002, Mustonen signed to the Ondine label, on which his most recent releases include Respighi’s Concerto in modo Misolidio with Sakari Oramo and the Finnish Radio Symphony and a critically acclaimed disc of Scriabin’s piano music. In 2014, Mustonen released a highly-acclaimed recording of his own Cello Sonata on the BIS label, with Steven Isserlis.