Olli Mustonen is a fascinating artist who brings exceptional intelligence and musicianship to every one of his experiences on the concert stage. His three roles as composer, pianist and conductor are combined in an equal balance which gives Mustonen a unique place in the musical world. Working time and again with the world’s leading orchestras, he appears this season with the Munich Philharmonic, Netherlands Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, with whom he is performing and recording all of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos.
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. Recent highlights have included complete cycles of the Bartok Piano Concertos with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, concerts with the BBC Symphony and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic orchestras, and a return to Orchestre de Paris under Paavo Järvi. Mustonen performed with the Hungarian National Philharmonic under Zoltán Kocsis and was invited to be soloist at the Gala Concert and Closing Ceremony of the Winter International Arts Festival in Sochi, performing with the Moscow Soloists Chamber Orchestra under Yuri Bashmet. In the current season, Mustonen gives concerto performances with the Guerzenich Orchestra Cologne, Munich Philharmonic and Netherlands Philharmonic orchestras.
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 and Ruhr Piano festivals, Symphony Center Chicago, New York Zankel Hall and Sydney Opera House. In the current season, Olli undertakes an extensive recital tour of Sweden and returns to Sala Verdi Del Conservatorio in Milan.
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.
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. Mustonen also presents a full cycle of Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, appearing recently at Helsinki Music Centre, Helsingborg Piano Festival and Singapore Piano Festival and this season taking the project to Amsterdam Muziekgebouw and Lille Piano Festival.
Mustonen’s life as a composer is at the heart of both his piano playing and conducting. Mustonen 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 Melbourne Symphony, Tchaikovsky Symphony, Meiningen Court Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic. In 2014, Mustonen conducted the world première of his Sonata for Violin and Orchestra with the Melbourne Symphony, as part of his curation of the Metropolis New Music Festival; this season he conducts the world première of his Sonata for Cello and Orchestra on a national tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
As well as all the major Finnish orchestras, Mustonen has conducted the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Weimar Staatskapelle, WDR Cologne, Camerata Salzburg, Scottish Chamber, Orchestra della Toscana, Orchestra del Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Jerusalem Symphony, Riga Sinfonietta, NHK Symphony and Queensland and West Australian symphony orchestras.
In 12/13 Mustonen was invited to be Artist in Residence at the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring in all three roles of conductor, composer and soloist across a diverse range of concerts. Thriving in this ‘triple role’, Mustonen appears in such a capacity this season with the Atlanta Symphony, New Russia Symphony and Estonian National Symphony orchestras and the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Bringing his own works to the chamber music stage, Mustonen toured Germany last season 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, followed by a second performance at Festival O/Modernt in Stockholm. His recital partners include Pekka Kuusisto, with whom he gave the 2013 world première of his own Violin Sonata, and Steven Isserlis, with performances of Mustonen’s Cello Sonata in 2014.
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.
Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 2 – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Brabbins)
“I found his metallic attack and the care with which he placed each note, whether a storm of double octaves or a simple slow melody, totally compelling.” The Herald, 17 December 2012
Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Brabbins)
“It was Finnish pianist Olli Mustonen’s barnstorming performance that brought the real revelations. His brittle, volatile pianism proved just the right match for the percussive brilliance of Bartók’s piano writing in this concerto…his performance was powerful, muscular and utterly compelling.” The Scotsman, 11 December 2012
Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 & Hindemith’s Concerto for Left Hand – BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Brabbins)
“Mustonen’s account of the [Bartok] concerto, too, showed him as a fantastically inventive musician: the opening bars alone sounded nostalgic, exploratory and totally fresh.” The Guardian, 7 December 2012