The festival in the summer of 2022 will mark the end of a magnificent 42-year tenure as Artistic Director of the Naantali Music Festival by its founder, cellist Arto Noras. The new artistic director will be Elina Vähälä, a long-time regular performer at the Music Festival and one of Finland’s most internationally successful violinists.
Arto Noras’s legacy: a festival of remarkable quality
The Naantali Music Festival began when the first festival was organised in the summer of 1980 on the initiative of cellist Arto Noras. Since then, some half a million visitors have listened to more than 3,000 works performed by some 60 orchestras and 700 artists.
As a result of Noras’ network of top international artists and his uncompromising commitment to quality, the Naantali Music Festival is now one of the most prestigious music events in Finland and is also recognised for its high quality outside Finland.
“Now is a good time to hand over the artistic reins to a new generation,” says Arto Noras, who turns 80 in May.
Noras will not leave the Naantali Music Festival but will move on to lead a world-class cello academy, which will be developed as a part of the Vallis Gratiae music camp academy.
The new artistic director is a top violinist who knows Naantali well
The Naantali Music Festival Foundation’s governing board decided on the new Artistic Director yesterday.
“Arto Noras has done a tremendous job in leading the Naantali Music Festival artistically ever since its conception. I would like to thank him for these great achievements while warmly welcoming the incoming Artistic Director Elina Vähälä to her new position,” says Pekka Ritvanen, Chairman of the governing board of the Naantali Music Festival Foundation.
Violinist Elina Vähälä is one of our internationally renowned instrumentalists. Her sound and virtuosity have captivated music critics around the world. A chamber musician and orchestral soloist performing regularly, she is also a teacher: she is a founding member of Viuluakatemia, which began its activities in 2009, as well as Professor of Violin at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. She has also worked as artistic director of both the Sysmä and Oulu Music Festivals.
Arto Noras is convinced that the Music Festival is in good hands.
“I have known Elina for a long time, and I appreciate her artistic merit and musical ambitions. I myself started working with the Music Festival more than 40 years ago as an amateur, whereas Elina is a mature and experienced professional,” says Noras.
“I am also glad that I was able to influence the choice of my successor – after all these years, it is naturally very important to me,” he adds.
The first programme of the Naantali Music Festival planned by Vähälä will take place from 6 to 17 June 2023.
“I am extremely grateful for the trust placed in me. The Naantali Music Festival is a unique combination of the best music and the seaside, and I have been part of its family of musicians for more than 20 years,” says Elina Vähälä.
“Arto has created a festival with a world-class programme and an idyllic atmosphere. I intend to lead this festival by respecting its traditions and renewing it through my own artistic personality,” she continues.
Elina Vähälä acted as Artistic Director of the Oulu Music Festival for only one year and will leave the position prematurely to take over the Naantali Music Festival.
To the future with renewed vigour
After this summer, Naantali Music Festival will be developed with renewed vigour, as Managing Director Suvi Innilä took up her post in November 2020 after her predecessor Tiina Tunturi retired after 23 years.
“I am very much looking forward to working with Elina – I admire her both as a musician and as a person, and I know that the success and development of the Naantali Music Festival is very important to both of us,” says Innilä.
“I’ve also been very privileged to work with Arto Noras, who I admire, for the past couple of years. It has been a pleasure to build the festival with him, despite difficult and exceptional times,” she continues.
Audiences will be treated to a variety of musical spectacles
The 2022 summer programme of around 30 concerts and other events will celebrate Arto Noras’ 80th birthday and his long tenure as artistic director. Audiences will therefore have the opportunity to enjoy a series of particularly spectacular concerts of the highest quality.
The celebrations will start already on 14 May in Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki with the concert Arto 80 Years – On the journey of the Master. In addition to Noras’ solo performances, the evening will feature orchestras with no fewer than 36 of our country’s leading cellists, consisting of Noras’ colleagues and first, second and third generation students. Composers include Aulis Sallinen, Joonas Kokkonen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Astor Piazzolla.
The celebrations will continue in Naantali in June. The Congratulations Arto on 80 years! Friends on Stage concert on Thursday 9 June will feature no less than 14 Finnish and foreign stars performing as soloists in Naantali Church, with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and two conductors. The programme consists of compositions by J.S. Bach, W.A. Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Aulis Sallinen and Krzysztof Penderecki. Guest soloists include, among others, violinists Mihaela Martin, Elina Vähälä and Christian Altenburger, cellists Frans Helmerson and Young Song and clarinettist Michel Lethiec, with conductors Okko Kamu and Ralf Gothoni.
The festival will conclude and Arto Noras’ term as Artistic Director will culminate with the Twelve-Cello Finale on Saturday 18 June in Naantali Church. Arrangements for 12 cellos of works by J.S. Bach, Aulis Sallinen, Astor Piazzolla and Heitor Villa-Lobos, among others, will be performed. The concert will also feature soprano Kaisa Ranta.