Jukka-Pekka Saraste has established himself as one of the outstanding conductors of his generation, demonstrating remarkable musical depth and integrity. Born in Heinola, Finland, he began his career as a violinist before training as a conductor with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. An artist of exceptional versatility and breadth and renowned for his objective approach, he feels a special affinity with the sound and style of late Romantic music. He maintains a particularly strong connection to the works of Beethoven, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Sibelius and is internationally celebrated for his interpretations of Mahler.
From 2010 to 2019, Jukka-Pekka Saraste served as Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra in Cologne. During his tenure, the orchestra built up a reputation both at home and abroad, touring Austria, Spain, the Baltic, and Asia. The symphonic cycles of Sibelius, Brahms and Beethoven were exceptionally well received. Previously, from 2006 to 2013, Jukka-Pekka Saraste was Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was subsequently appointed Conductor Laureate, the very first such title bestowed by that orchestra. Earlier positions include the principal conductorships of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he is now Conductor Laureate, and Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He also served as Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Advisor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. He founded the Finnish Chamber Orchestra, the Artistic Advisor of which he still is, and initiated the orchestra's annual Tammisaari Festival, of which he is Artistic Director. Last but not least, Jukka-Pekka Saraste is a founding member of the LEAD! Foundation, which aims to teach young musicians effective musical leadership and communication skills within the context of orchestra playing and conducting through workshops, concerts and masterclasses. LEAD! Activities already took him to the Haute Ecole de Musique de Lausanne, Aurora Festival in Stockholm, Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchesterzentrum|NRW Dortmund. In summer 2020, his focus is on a Conductors' Masterclass at the Summer Festival in the Finnish village of Fiskars.
His guest engagements have led him to the major orchestras worldwide, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Munich Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris and the leading Scandinavian orchestras, among others. In North America, he has conducted the Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony, New York Philharmonic, as well as Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal. In recent years, Jukka-Pekka Saraste has increasingly ventured into opera and, following concert performances of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, Schönberg’s Erwartung and Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, had great success at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna with a new scenic production of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, directed by Calixto Bieito and Korngold’s Die tote Stadt at the Finnish National Opera. In the 2020-2021 season, he will conduct a new staging of Reimann's Lear at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.
Jukka-Pekka Saraste´s extensive discography includes the complete symphonies of Sibelius and Nielsen with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and several well-received recordings with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra of works by Bartók, Dutilleux, Mussorgsky and Prokofiev for Warner Finlandia. His CDs with WDR Symphony Orchestra for Hänssler have likewise earned him much critical praise. They include Schönberg’s Pelleas and Melisande, Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol, Brahms’ complete Symphonies as well as Mahler’s 5th and 9th Symphony and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8. The complete cycle of Beethoven’s symphonies, released in 2019 to high critical acclaim, can be regarded as a legacy of his tenure in Cologne.
Jukka-Pekka Saraste has received the Pro Finlandia Prize, the Sibelius Medal, and the Finnish State Prize for Music. He was awarded honorary doctorates from York University, Toronto and Sibelius Academy, Helsinki.
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