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Kuhmo spreads its wings while not forgetting its roots



In many important ways, this summer represents a renewal of the Kuhmo Chamber Music. Most significantly, this is the first year that the festival’s new artistic directors, the violinists Minna Pensola and Antti Tikkanen, will present a festival programme that is entirely of their own making. Their fingerprints can be seen in the sheer scope of this year’s programme, the number of guest composers, premiere performances and fascinating musicians. That being said, as always, the classics of the chamber-music repertoire still form the core of the festival programme.


The 2023 festival will begin on Sunday 9th July and end on Saturday 22nd July. The programme contains be a total of 60 concerts featuring one hundred performers both from Finland and further afield.


The title of the 2023 programme, “Roots and Wings”, is taken from one of last year’s concerts. “The more progress we made in planning this year’s programme, the more strongly we felt the power of these words running through the individual programmes we came up with,” Minna Pensola and Antti Tikkanen explain.


Wings carry us up into the air, allowing us to see things from a different perspective, while roots tether the programme to its decades-long traditions. “With foundations such as these, it is exciting to spread our wings, to feel them carry us right from our first tentative attempts at flight. Their wingspan is broad, fostering all kinds of unexpected connections, from the periphery to the centre and back again.” These roots became all the more topical when the city of Kuhmo was named as Finno-Ugric Capital of Culture 2023.


A Whole Host of World Premieres


Roots and wings come together on 9th July, at the opening concert of this year’s festival. The first work on the programme is Kelly-Marie Murphy’s piano trio, invoking the wings of the legendary Phoenix, after which we delve deep into the roots of tradition as Ilona Korhonen performs a selection of oral poetry (runosong). After this, the festival will progress at the usual pace of four concerts per day. Once the closing, Venice-themed concert on Saturday 22nd is behind us, the festival will have presented 60 main concerts plus a range of student concerts and meet-the-artist events.


One of the most fascinating premieres will be on the first day of the festival. Composed by Sampo Kasurinen to a libretto by Aina Bergroth, the chamber opera Trapped Butterfly tells the story of Madama Butterfly from a new perspective. The work was jointly commissioned by Kuhmo Chamber Music in association with Rauma Festivo and Our Festival. Tuesday 18th July will see another hotly awaited premiere, that of a new quintet for basset clarinet and string quartet by Outi Tarkiainen. Another premiere by Tarkiainen will take place earlier that same day with the first performance of the Downfall of Judith Shakespeare. The work is based on an aria taken from Tarkiainen’s opera A Room of One’s Own, which was premiered in 2022.


On Thursday 13th July we will hear a performance of Ungrievable Lives by the English composer Charlotte Bray, a work commissioned jointly by Kuhmo Chamber Music, the Wigmore Hall, Elbphilharmonie and the Santa Fe Chamber-Music Festival. This is the first time the work has been heard in Finland.


The programme also includes a host of traditional chamber-music favourites by Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and many other great composers. And true to Kuhmo traditions, Schubert’s quintet ‘The Trout’, performed every year, has not been forgotten either, and it can be heard on Thursday 20th July. This year’s programme gives listeners the chance to experience the classics in a new light as they are all presented alongside works by living composers.




A total of 100 performers will appear at the festival this year. Kuhmo will host audience favourites like the Kamus, Meta4 and Danel string quartets and the Storioni trio. Among the many returning artists are the pianists Heini Kärkkäinen and Olli Mustonen, the violinists Sergey Malov, Daniel Rowland, John Storgårds and Elina Vähälä, the viola player Yuval Gotlibovich, the cellists Maja Bogdanović, Tuomas Lehto and Senja Rummukainen, the flautist Janne Thomsen, the clarinetists Lauri Sallinen and Christoffer Sundqvist and the singers Marjukka Tepponen, Mari Palo, Tuuli Lindeberg and Virpi Räisänen. New acquaintances include the Castalian String Quartet, the Baroque ensemble Scherzi Musicali, the recorder player Erik Bosgraaf and the pianist Silke Avenhaus.


This year’s guest composers are Outi Tarkiainen and the English composer Charlotte Bray. Many different musical styles come together at Kuhmo this year, particularly with guest artists including Marzi Nyman and Iiro Rantala. There is also a wide selection of folk music ranging from the hardanger fiddle to the Finnish tradition of oral folk poetry, here performed by Vilma Jää and Ilona Korhonen. One of the concerts on Saturday 15th July will also showcase the Finnish schlager as Matti Salminen, king of the basses, returns to his roots.


Finland’s biggest chamber-music festival


Kuhmo’s festival is the oldest and largest chamber-music festival in Finland. This year the festival will take place for the 53rd time.


The overall budget for the 2023 festival is 910,000€, with ticket sales accounting for over 50% of that sum. The festival is supported through generous funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture and the City of Kuhmo. The Finnish Cultural Foundation has awarded grants towards the commissioning of new works.


There are two levels of corporate sponsorship: partners and friends. Our new partners for 2023 are OP Kuhmo, OP Kainuu, OP Ylä-Kainuu, and OP Paltamo. Our friend-level sponsors are F-Musiikki Oy, Kainuun Sanomat, Kuhmo Oy, No-Pan Auto Oy, Lumme Energia and Osuuskauppa Maakunta.


Further information:

Kuhmo Chamber Music, tel. +358 44 544 5162


Wild Taiga summer