A guide to contemporary & classical summer festivals

The Finnish festival summer is full of contemporary music – in fact, it’s so packed that you could fill the whole summer touring around the country, listening to contemporary Finnish composers. One of the big scale highlights is Savonlinna Opera Festival’s new staging of Aulis Sallinen’s Kullervo, but there are many smaller events with an interesting new repertoire.

One route to follow is to be on the lookout for talented young musicians, playing around the country during the summer, from the Chamber Summer in Helsinki to Kuhmo to Baroque music festivals.

Contemporary music


Naantali Music Festival (3-14 June)

Naantali Music Festival in the south-west coast of Finland is a well-established chamber music festival with an international aim. This year, the programme includes two world premieres by Kalevi Aho. Aho’s Cello concerto will be premiered on 5 June by cellist Arto Noras, the founder and long-standing director of the festival, with Lahti Symphony Orchestra and conductor Osmo Vänskä.  The second Aho premiere is a solo guitar piece Solo XI - Hommage á Munir Bashir, played by Ismo Eskelinen (12 June). The festival also includes a premiere of Introit of Pentecost by Jyrki Linjama (on 8 June).

Kotkan Lohisoitto (4-8 June)

The young composer Jouni Hirvelä has written a new orchestral work for Kymi Sinfonietta, to be premiered at Kotkan Lohisoitto (Kotka Salmon Sounds) on 4 June.

Espoo’s Urkuyö and Aaria (5 June-28 August)

The all-summer festival focusing on vocal music, Espoo's Urkuyö and Aaria will premiere Timo-Juhani Kyllönen’s Concerto for organstrings and percussion op. 89 on 7 August.

Iitti Music Festival (11-14 June)

Kaija Saariaho is the guest composer at Iitti Music Festival (11-14 June). The programme features Saariaho’s chamber music and piano music, played for example by the festival’s Artistic Director Laura Mikkola. As a curiosity, the programme includes Einojuhani Rautavaara’s much played Cantus Arcticus, but arranged for piano and cello, with Perttu Kivilaakso, a cellist better known from the cello metal group Apocalyptica.

Kallio-Kuninkala music festival (12-15 June)

Zagros Ensemble’s summer festival, Kallio-Kuninkala music festival, is highlighting Matthew Whittall as the festival’s theme composer. In addition to Whittall’s own works, the festival will include music by American and Canadian composers, as well as Finnish colleagues Antti Auvinen, Aki Yli-Salomäki, Alex Freeman and Ilari Kaila

XXIX Summer Sounds (25-29 June)

This year, the programme of Avanti! Chamber Orchestra’s Summer Sounds festival is planned by soprano Barbara Hannigan. The Finnish composer names of the broad-minded festival include Lotta Wennäkoski, Markus Fagerudd and Kirmo Lintinen. As in the previous years, a concert by the composition workshop of Jouni Kaipainen and Jukka Tiensuu, titled “Sävellyspaja”, is heard as part of the festival on 27 June.


Time of Music (1-6 July)

Time Of Music is the only yearly festival in Finland dedicated to contemporary music alone. This year’s premieres of new Finnish works vary from small duo works for guitar and harpsichord by Juha T. Koskinen and Matthew Whittall to a “low budget, stand up comedy opera” by Jovanka Trbojevic (2 July) to an all-Finnish programme by Ensemble Recherche (6 July), featuring music by Sauli Zinovjev, Veli-Matti Puumala, Ilkka Hammo, Antti Auvinen, Sebastian Hilli and Johan Tallgren, the festival’s Artistic Director.

Joensuu Music Festival (1-6 July)

The program of Joensuu Music Festival includes chamber music and recitals from interesting artists, including a jazz concert by Iiro Rantala String Trio (Iiro Rantala, piano; Adam Baldych, violin; Asja Valcic, cello) and classical ”The Virtuoso Violin” concert starring the awarded Russians Yury Revich (violin) and Sergey Sobolev (piano) to name a few. Festival's artistic director is internationally known pianist, Janne Mertanen.

Sysmä Summer Sounds Festival (4-12 July)

The small but central Sysmä Summer Sounds Festival has commissioned a composition for six cellos from composer Osmo Tapio Räihälä. The new work Roihu will be premiered on 4 July.

Savonlinna Opera Festival (4 July – 2 August)

Savonlinna Opera Festival will bring a new production of Aulis Sallinen’s Kullervo to the Olavinlinna Castle stage. Based on the Finnish national epic The Kalevala and the play Kullervo by Aleksi Kivi the portrait goes deep into the Finnish mythology. Originally composed in 1988 in commission of the Finnish National Opera, the opera was premiered in Los Angeles, USA in 1992. In the meanwhile, it has been seen for example in Germany and Switzerland, and it has good great reviews from the international press.

Kimito Island Music Festival (8-13 July)

A brand new work by Aulis Sallinen will be heard at Kimito Island Music Festival on 8 July. The String Quartet No. 6, Op. 103 will be premiered by Katinka Korkeala, Sonja Korkeala, Hariolf Schlichtig and Samuli Peltonen.

Crusell Music Festival (26 July – 2 August)

Crusell Music Festival has an impressive amount of new Finnish music on its programme this year. defunensemble will have a new music concert on 27 July with music by Antti Auvinen, Juhani Nuorvala and Perttu Haapanen.  New works by Kirmo Lintinen and Olli Kortekangas will also be played at the festival.

Meidän festivaali (Our Festival, 27 July – 2 August)

Meidän festivaali (Our Festival) has once again a broad-minded programme with music ranging from old to new, across the genres. Among the contemporary repertoire are works by Jukka Tiensuu, a world premiere by Timo Alakotila, and a chamber opera by Jaakko Kuusisto.

Korsholm Music Festival (30 July-6 August)

The theme of Korsholm Music Festival is “Nordic Dimension”, a theme that brings a lot of Nordic music to the programme. The composer guest is Sebastian Fagerlund, whose two new works will be played at the festival (4 and 5 August). In addition, a premiere of Tapio Lappalainen’s new Violin duo will be heard at the festival (3 August).

Oulunsalo Soi (31 July – 3 August)

Juha T. Koskinen's Chant of Lusia will be performed at Oulunsalo Soi on 2 August. Mezzo-soprano Virpi Räisänen sings a fragment of the next year’s opera premiere, Juha T. Koskinen’s opera Lusia.


Luosto Classic (7-10 August)

Luosto Classic includes, as already traditional, several works by Kalevi Aho. Another contemporary name on the programme is Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008).

Helsinki Festival (15-31 August)

Helsinki Festival combines Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music to Tero Saarinen’s dance on 16 August. The Finnish National Opera orchestra will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen himself. The live performance will also feature violinist Akiko Suwanai and horn player Tommi Viertonen, who will be the soloists of Salonen’s Concert etude for solo horn (2000) and Violin Concerto (2009). The orchestral work Foreign Bodies will also be part of the performance’s musical score. Helsinki Festival also feature’s Mikko Heiniö’s Piano Quintet, played by Meta4 and pianist Natacha Kudritskaya on 24 August.

Pasimusic (18-21 September)

And to end the summer in September, Pasimusic is a new festival in Northern Savo, taking place from 18 to 21 September. The festival has been named after composer Pasi Lyytikäinen, a central figure as a composer and arranger of the festival. Another prominent composer name is Ahti Sonninen, who was born in Norther Savo a hundred years ago. 

Classical & Baroque

Kamarikesä (Chamber Summer, 16-18 June)

Kamarikesä fills three nights at Helsinki’s House of Nobility with concerts of young talented instrumentalists. Pianist Johannes Piirto will play Bach’s Goldberg Variations on 17 June.

Janakkala Baroque (27-29 June)

Janakkala Baroque is a festival by Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, now arranged for the second time. Located in the Church of St. Lawrence in Janakkala, the festival features also international guests like organist Benjamin-Joseph Steens.

Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival (13-26 July)

The 73 events at Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival will provide music for every taste. This year’s theme is seven arts and seven cities, and in addition to chamber works also larger scale works are featured this year as well.

Sastamala Gregoriana (19-26 July)

19th Edition of the festival for Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque is set in Sastamala Old Church. Accompanying the festival there is also a masterclass with early music specialists.

BRQ Vantaa Festival (3-10 August)

BRQ, which takes place in Vantaa, Finland concentrates on Baroque music. The festival program consists of multiple Finnish and international artists, including Aapo Häkkinen, Tuija Hakkila, Ilpo Laspas and the Finnish Baroque Orchestra.

Turku Music Festival (8-23 August)

The theme of Turku Music Festival this year is ”Mars, Venus & Co.”, which references to love. Artistic Director Topi Lehtipuu has invited several international top names, including tenor Jonas Kaufman and pianist Jonathan Biss. The festival also features, for example, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra and other top Finnish names.