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Biography

..a physically flamboyant player of Olympian virtuosity…

The New York Times

Afterward, there was a surprised buzz in the auditorium as listeners confessed to loving a sometimes furiously dissonant piece

[NY Philharmonic / Alan Gilbert / Carnegie Hall / Magnus Lindberg concerto].    

As reported in the New Yorker it is not an uncommon occurrence for this consummate artist to bring his audience to its feet, even if the repertoire, or Kriikku himself, is being heard for the first time. A champion of contemporary music, Kari Kriikku is renowned for his interpretation of virtuosic new clarinet works written for him by composers such as Michel van der Aa, Unsuk Chin, Magnus Lindberg, Kimmo Hakola, Kaija Saariaho and Jukka Tiensuu.

19/20 season kicks off with Kari Kriikku’s appearance in the Helsinki Festival with an innovative performance of Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals with Pekka Kuusisto. Realised in co-operation with Greenpeace, this performance paints a stirring picture of modern man’s relationship with nature and animals. The season will then see Kriikku appears in the Finnish Independence Day concert with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Klaus Mäkelä. Further highlights include Kriikku’s performances of Saariaho’s “D’OM LE VRAI SENS” with Vancouver Symphony and Otto Tausk as well as Unsuk Chin’s clarinet concerto with NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester and Stefan Asbury. He will also present the world premiere of a new concerto by Czech composer Ondřej Štochl with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Olari Elts.

Highlights of other new works Kriikku has premiered include Unsuk Chin’s clarinet concerto (2014) which Kriikku performed with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano, New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with Nicholas Collon, BBC Scottish Symphony and Malmö Symphony under the baton of Ilan Volkov, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Xian Zhang.

Kaija Saariaho’s “D’OM LE VRAI SENS” received its premiere with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo, and has since been performed with New York Philharmonic and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig with Vladimir Jurowski, BBC Symphony Orchestra with David Robertson, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic with Olari Elts and RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin with Ilan Volkov.

Other highlights include performances of Kimmo Hakola’s colourful concerto with Semyon Bychkov (WDR Köln and La Scala, Milan), and Magnus Lindberg’s concerto with a spectacular premiere at London’s 2007 BBC Proms with BBC Symphony and Semyon Bychkov, and most recently with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Osmo Vänskä. Meanwhile, Kriikku’s ingenious Bizarre Bazaar programme, as a homage to the more exotic, less well-known repertoire for clarinet, drew attention all over Finland and around the world.

Kriikku has recorded most of these works for Ondine including Jukka Tiensuu’s “Missa” with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgårds. Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto recording was nominated in the 2006 Gramophone Awards and the new Saariaho work with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo won the Jury’s Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2013.

Kari Kriikku’s musical inventiveness and fresh attitude towards traditional performances not only as a soloist, commissioner but also as Artistic Director of Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, have been further recognised when in 2009, Kriikku was announced recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize. Kari Kriikku is on the jury panel for the 68th ARD International Music Competition (Clarinet category) in Munich in September 2019.