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 releases the second and last volume of Prokofiev Piano Concertos in the current season, recorded with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu for the Ondine label.
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, often bringing them together in one fascinating triple role performance.
During an illustrious career spanning 35 years, Mustonen has brought his extraordinary musical insight to many of world’s most significant musical centres, whether it be in a triple role, as soloist or conductor, or as recitalist and chamber musician. His intelligence and inspiring presence have led him towards many close musical connections with some of today’s most eminent musicians, and appearances with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orkest, Orchestre de Paris and all the London orchestras.
Meanwhile his life as a composer is at the heart of 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 premieres 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, Melbourne Symphony and Meiningen Court Orchestra among others. Also in 2014, Mustonen conducted the world premiere of his Sonata for Violin and Orchestra with the Melbourne Symphony, and in the current season conducts the work with Pekka Kuusisto and the Helsinki Philharmonic. In 2015, Mustonen conducted the world premiere of his Sonata for Cello and Orchestra, followed by a European premiere at the 2016 Amsterdam Cello Biënnale.
Frequently 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 premiere of his Piano Quintet at the 2015 ‘Spannungen’ Festival in Heimbach, followed by further performances in Stockholm, Kaposvar, Bucharest, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Lofoten and La Jolla among others. In 2017 he was Composer in Residence at the Davos Festival in Switzerland.
As a conductor, Mustonen has worked with all the major Finnish orchestras and many more around the globe, including the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Camerata Salzburg, Verdi Symphony Orchestra Milan, NHK Symphony Tokyo and Queensland and West Australian symphony orchestras. In 2017, he conducted two operas at the Opera Apriori International Festival in Moscow. In a play/conduct capacity, Mustonen works regularly with orchestras such as the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Jerusalem Symphony, and has appeared recently with the Atlanta Symphony, New Russia Symphony, Riga Sinfonietta and Estonian National Symphony, whilst this season includes the Norwegian Chamber, Lucerne Symphony and Kyoto Symphony orchestras.
One of Mustonen’s important musical friendships is 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. Another important musical partner is Valery Gergiev with whom he has appeared numerous times with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and the Rotterdam and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. 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. Mustonen is also a frequent guest at the Winter International Arts Festival in Sochi, having performed there often with the Moscow Soloists and the New Russia Symphony Orchestra with Yuri Bashmet.
As a recitalist, Mustonen has appeared in recent seasons at the Chopin Institute Warsaw, Diaghilev Festival Perm, Flagey Brussels, Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Dresden Festival, Symphony Center Chicago, New York Zankel Hall and Sydney Opera House. The current season includes solo recitals in Tokyo, Berkeley CA, and on tour in Germany. With Steven Isserlis he has performed as a duo for more than thirty years. Together they have recorded Mustonen’s Cello Sonata for BIS and have performed the work frequently. This season they appear together at the Wigmore Hall and on a tour of Italy.
A strong exponent of Prokofiev’s music, Mustonen has recently performed and recorded all of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos with the Finnish Radio Symphony under Hannu Lintu, released in two volumes in 2016 and 2017 respectively on the Ondine label. In 2017, Mustonen performed Prokofiev’s 2nd concerto with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He is unusual in also 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 and Singapore Piano Festival, on a tour of Belgium and the Netherlands, and to the Ruhr Piano Festival in his 50th birthday week. In 17/18, Mustonen performs the complete sonatas cycle at the Festival Cervantino in Mexico.
Also close to Mustonen’s heart is the music of Beethoven, all of whose concertos he conducted and played with the Melbourne Symphony in 2010-2012, and of Bartok, whose concerto cycle he performed with the BBC Scottish Symphony in 2012. Mustonen’s repertoire also includes Respighi’s Concerto in modo misolidio, which he has recorded with the Finnish Radio Symphony and Sakari Oramo on the Ondine label.
Olli Mustonen’s recording catalogue is typically broad-ranging and distinctive. Prior to his recording of the complete Prokofiev Piano Concertos for Ondine, he released a highly-acclaimed recording of his own Cello Sonata on the BIS label with Steven Isserlis. His release on Decca of Preludes by Shostakovich and Alkan received the Edison Award and Gramophone Award for the Best Instrumental Recording.
Born in Helsinki, Olli 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.
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
“He has, as evinced throughout his extraordinary performance of the Bach, which ranged from extreme delicacy to blatant thunder, with a mighty final fugue where the Finn let the music roar, a truly astonishing command of keyboard technique. “ Herald Scotland, 10 December 2012