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Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra Names New Chief Conductor and Artistic Director

Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste assumed the role this month


In April 2022, Jukka-Pekka Saraste was announced to succeed Susanna Mälkki as chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (HPO) after her term in summer 2023. Sarasate will also serve as the orchestra’s artistic director.

With his appointment, he has joined the orchestra’s three-member artistic leadership team, comprising new principal guest conductor and artistic co-director Pekka Kuusisto, and composer-in-residence Anna Clyne

Saraste has performed with the HPO regularly since his debut with them in 1983. He has also worked closely with Kuusisto for several years — a partnership that will continue at the HPO, where Sarasate will conduct the orchestra eight weeks a year, and Kuusisto, four weeks a year. 

Born in Heinola, Finland, Jukka-Pekka Saraste first trained as a violinist before pursuing conducting studies with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy.

From 2010 to 2019, he served as chief conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra, and was music director and chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra from 2006 to 2013. 

His earlier positions include principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, artistic advisor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, plus principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he is now conductor laureate.

The founder of the Finnish Chamber Orchestra, where he serves as the artistic advisor, Saraste is also a founding member of the LEAD! Foundation mentorship program for emerging conductors and soloists. 

His many accolades include the Pro Finlandia Prize, Sibelius Medal, the Finnish State Prize for Music, plus honorary doctorates from York University, Toronto, and Sibelius Academy. In 2023 he was awarded Finaldn’s Commander of the Order of the Lion.

“Symphonic music has always been a very important part of the Finnish identity, and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra has an incredible history of providing a platform for composers since the early works of Sibelius,” said Saraste. “I am very excited to continue building the identity and importance of the orchestra together with the Artistic Leadership Team.”

“This is an inspiring next step for the 140-year-old HPO,” added HPO general manager, Aleksi Malmberg. “We can be thankful for having such a strong base, from which we can explore new exciting paths with these wonderful artists — together with our 102 musicians and the whole team in service of music and the people of Helsinki. Now if ever, the value of unity, creativity and collaboration is being highlighted.”

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