Jaakko Kuusisto joined us from his native country of Finland to talk about his life in music during free talk at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center as part of their M&T Second Fridays at the Center. The audience got a unique chance to hear this world renowned musical artist speak about his creative process, his personal relationship with BPO Principal Trupeter, Alex Jokipii, and his upcoming concerto performance with the BPO.
Jaakko began his career as a solo violinist. In fact, he has recorded concertos by some of the most prominent Finnish contemporary composers, such as Rautavaara, Aho, Sallinen and Pulkkis, and is one of the most frequently recorded Finnish instrumentalists. He also works extensively as a conductor all over the world. But, it is his composing that brought him to Buffalo in spring 2018. Jaakko’s Trumpet Concerto was featured at Kleinhans on May 12 and 13, featuring the BPO’s own principal trumpeter Alex Jokipii as soloist.
Kuusisto's compositions range from chamber music to opera, but concertos form an important part of his works; the Violin Concerto, written for Elina Vähälä, which received it's US-premier in 2015 as part of CAI's FinnFest residency, has become an international success, and his concertos for piano and bassoon have also been received with enthusiasm.
Having recorded concertos by some of the most prominent Finnish contemporary composers, such as Rautavaara, Aho, Sallinen and Pulkkis, Kuusisto is one of the most frequently recorded Finnish instrumentalists. His conducting repertoire is versatile and ranges from baroque to the latest new works, regardless of genre. He has worked with many leading orchestras, including Minnesota Orchestra; Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; NDR Hannover, DeFilharmonie in Belgium; Chamber Orchestras of Tallinn and Lausanne; Helsinki, Turku and Tampere Philharmonic Orchestras; Oulu Symphony Orchestra as well as the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. Kuusisto recently conducted his debut performances with the Krakow Sinfonietta and Ottawa’s National Arts Center Orchestra, as well as at the Finnish National Opera’s major production Indigo, an opera by heavy metal cello group Apocalyptica’s Eicca Toppinen and Perttu Kivilaakso. The score of the opera is also arranged and orchestrated by Kuusisto.
Kuusisto performs regularly as soloist and chamber musician and has held the position of artistic director at several festivals. Currently he is the artistic director of the Oulu Music Festival with a commitment presently until 2017. Kuusisto also enjoys a longstanding relationship with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra: having served as concertmaster during 1999-2012, his collaboration with the orchestra now continues with frequent guest conducting and recordings, to name a few. One particularly successful area has been a series of pop projects together with Vocal Ensemble Rajaton, featuring the music of ABBA, Queen, and The Beatles in custom-made arrangements mostly written by Kuusisto himself. When it comes to recordings, his collaboration with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra has been critically acclaimed. This includes albums with music by Armas Järnefelt, Kalevi Aho, Jaakko’s father Ilkka Kuusisto, and especially Jaakko’s own Violin Concerto with Elina Vähälä as soloist.
Kuusisto’s compositions consist of more than 30 opuses: chamber and vocal music, orchestral pieces, operas, as well as music for films. His family opera, The Canine Kalevala, was hugely popular at the Savonlinna Opera Festival and ran three seasons. Moreover, his latest opera Elämälle about composer Oskar Merikanto’s life was received with acclaim at the Ilmajoki Music Festival in June 2015 and 2016. Kuusisto’s piano concerto for Dejan Lazic was premiered with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2016, conducted by the composer himself. Currently Kuusisto is working on a bassoon concerto, which is commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and will be premiered in spring 2017. In the summer 2016 BIS Records released an album called “Glow”, which consists of Kuusisto’s chamber music pieces.