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Ralf Gothóni - A Multifaceted and Unconventional Musician


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reprint / The SFHS Quarterly

Ralf Gothóni is Chief Conductor of Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra. Born in Finland, he began studying violin at age three and piano at five. He debuted at 15 as orchestra soloist, and in 1967 appeared at the Jyväskylä Summer Festival as “debutant of the year.” Since then, Gothóni has enjoyed a multifaceted career as solo pianist, chamber musician, and conductor worldwide. He is well known for his unconventional way of music making, not only as a pianist, but as a musician with unusual thinking about music and the wholeness of musicianship.

His performances include music festivals in Salzburg, Berlin, Prague, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, La Roque de Antheron, Ravinia, Tanglewood, and more. He has performed with Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Japan Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, and Chicago, Detroit and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, among others. Gothóni appears annually in concerts as soloist and conductor, conducting from the keyboard, and is also a regular guest artist at major chamber music festivals.

Gothóni has recorded some 80 albums, more than 20 with the Ondine label, one of which is the critically acclaimed recording of Benjamin Britten's Piano Concerto, which includes the composer's original third movement. His latest recording is a one-hour piano concerto (Choros XI) by Villa-Lobos with Sakari Oramo and the Finnish Radio Orchestra.

Gothóni has held many artistic posts: Chief Conductor of the Finlandia Sinfonietta (1989-1994), Principal Guest Conductor of the Turku Philharmonic (since 1995), Artistic Director of the famous Savonlinna Opera Festival (1984- 1987), and since 1996, artistic director of the Forbidden City Music Festival in Beijing.

Gothóni is Artistic Director of Aino Ackte at the Institute for Chamber Music in Savonlinna; and is a professor at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki (1992-present), at Hochschule fur Musik in Hamburg (1985-96), and at Hanns Eisler Hochschule in Berlin (1996-2000). Since May 2000, he is the appointed Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music in London.

In September 2000, Gothóni was appointed Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra. His compositions include three chamber operas; chamber cantata, The Ox and its Shepherd; and a Concerto Grosso version of it for violin, piano and strings. This concerto premiered in 1999 with Gothóni as piano soloist/conductor, and wife, Elina Vähälä, as violin soloist.

Gothóni's first book, The Creative Moment, was published with great success in September 1998. In addition, he has been honored with several awards, including the Gilmore Artist Award in 1994, the Schubert Medal of the Austrian Ministry of Culture, the Order of Pro Finlandia, and the Prize of Honor of the Cultural Foundation in Finland.

Reprinted with permission. For a schedule of 2003 concerts, see the Northwest Chamber Orchestra's website at http://www.nwco.org

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