Violinist, Composer, and Conductor Jaakko Kuusisto Has Died, Aged 48

Kuusisto had been battling a brain tumor since the summer of 2020

(Photo Credit: Marko Väänänen)


Renowned Finnish musician Jaakko Kuusisto passed away on February 23, 2022, after suffering from the effects of brain cancer. Born into a musical family in 1974, Kuusisto was the son and grandson of the Finnish composers Ilkka and Taneli Kuusisto respectively. He and his younger brother Pekka Kuusisto both learned the violin from an early age.

Jaakko Kuusisto studied initially at the Sibelius Academy and then headed to America alongside his brother to further his studies with Miriam Fried at Indiana University.

He found early competition success first in Finland and then internationally, receiving First Prize at the 1989 Kuopio Violin Competition, and reaching the finals at the Sibelius, Indianapolis, and Queen Elisabeth violin competitions. In 1997, the Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä appointed Kuusisto concertmaster of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, where he was to stay for the next fifteen years.

Kuusisto's musical prowess went well beyond his abilities as a virtuosic soloist, however. As a composer, he wrote approximately 40 works. He found particular success in the realm of opera and also wrote a range of film music and chamber music.

As a conductor, too, he made an impression upon Finland's musical landscape, leading the Oulu Symphony from 2005 to 2009, and working as the Chief Conductor of the Kuopio City Orchestra from 2018 onward.

Kuusisto also spent time working in local politics and represented the Green party on his local municipal council during the course of his short illness.

Kuusisto is survived by his wife, Maija Kuusisto (née Perola). The couple were married in 2019, and had been together for around five years prior. Kuusisto is also survived by his two children from his first marriage.

"He loved, he was loved, he radiated good around him, which now shines in the memories," wrote Jaakko's younger brother Pekka Kuusisto on social media. "We look for those memories in the wind and a gentle mention today."

"The music world has lost a remarkable artist and we have lost an amazing Laureate, regarded for far more than being a fine violinist," said Glen Kwok, the Executive Director of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.

"Beyond his wonderful return performances in Indianapolis which included his own compositions, we were particularly proud to collaborate with Jaakko in the 2018 Competition by featuring his orchestrations of six Kreisler works for violin and string orchestra in our Classical Finals for the first time. They were truly one of the highlights of the Competition," Kwok added.

You can hear a recording of Kuusisto and pianist Iiro Rantala playing an arrangement of the Finnish song "Vanhojapoikia viiksekkäitä" below.