A feast for the ears

TEXT: HANNA HEISKANEN | PHOTOS © MIKKELI MUSIC FESTIVAL

Mikkeli Music Festival, which takes place on 1-5 July, is the event of choice for classical music fans looking to hear top-notch talent at an idyllic Finnish lakeside location.

For nearly 30 years, Mikkeli Music Festival has relied on a tried and tested formula: combining world-class musicians with an enthusiastic audiance and some Finnish midsummer magic. From the get-go, the driving force of the event has been the Petersburgian Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, one of the icons of Russian culture, headed by conductor Valery Gergiev. Gergiev, whose calendar is ordinarily filled with appearances at the world’s most renowned concert halls, was a friend of critic Seppo Heikinheimo, the founding father of the event.

“I wanted to preserve the heart of the festival while introducing a couple of new elements,” says its new festival manager, Teemu Laasanen. “The programme has always been varied to suit all tastes, and we’ve offered classical music from opera to ballet to symphonies,” he explains. “In 2019, we will of course host the Mariinsky again, but there will also be more lectures and seminars as well as lighter genres represented, including a concert by the famed Finnish jazz pianist Iiro Rantala.”

Mikkeli Music Festival is one of the oldest annual classical music events in Finland and has a firm place on the Nordic music scene. Many fans return loyally to Mikkeli, located by the lake Saimaa about two hours from Helsinki, year after year. And no wonder: few events offer the opportunity to witness this level of musicianship this close up. It is also a chance for many future stars to prove their skills.

“Finland is well known for its high-quality music education. Quite a few of our numbers feature young musicians, including a dinner with entertainment provided by Piano Desperados. We also cater for families: they will, for example, be able to enjoy the classic Saint-Saëns piece, Carnival of the Animals,” Laasanen says. The musical dinner itself should be a feast for the tastebuds as well as the ears; local organic food will be served.

In addition to his own performances, Laasanen is particularly looking forward to the performance by the winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition, which will finish right before the festival. “I’m very proud of what we’re putting together. We could never do it without the 50 or so local volunteers who help us every year. It’s at the same time international and truly local.”

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