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John Storgårds

John Storgårds is a Finnish conductor notable for his commitment to contemporary music. He also has a top-level career as a concert violinist. Storgårds was born in Helsinki on October 20, 1963. He grew up as part of Finland's Swedish-speaking minority. Storgårds began his musical career on the violin and studied with Esther Raitio and Jouko Ignatius at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy. He moved on to Israel, studying with Chaim Taub. Storgårds performed with various orchestras, sometimes holding the position of concertmaster, and he co-founded the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra. These experiences stimulated his interest in conducting, and he landed a stint as conductor of the Helsinki University Symphony Orchestra. Storgårds returned to the Sibelius Academy for conducting lessons from Eri Klas and Jorma Panula, meanwhile continuing his violin career as concertmaster of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. In 1996, he became the artistic director of the Chamber Orchestra of Lapland in Finland's far north; he remained in that position as of the early 2020s and lives with his family in the orchestra's home city of Rovaniemi. Storgårds made his recording debut as a violinist, performing with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra under conductor Hannu Lintu as soloist in a recording of Kaija Saariaho's Graal théâtre for violin and reduced orchestra in 2002. That recording appeared on the Ondine label, and Storgårds has continued with that label as both violinist and conductor. Storgårds became the principal guest conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, and his first recording as a conductor came with that group the following year, leading performances of the Symphony No. 2 and Mannheim Rocket of John Corigliano. That marked the beginning of an emphasis on contemporary music in Storgårds' career, both Scandinavian and otherwise. Storgårds was chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic from 2008 to 2015, and he appeared as a guest conductor with all of the major Nordic orchestras as well as with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, the London Philharmonic, and the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, among other groups. In the 2021-2022 season, he made his first appearance as a guest with the Berlin Philharmonic. Storgårds became the principal guest conductor of the BBC Philharmonic in 2012 and of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, Canada, in 2015; as of the early 2020s, he was still in both those positions. He has continued to record as both a violinist, performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto, Op. 47, in 2010 with the Helsinki Philharmonic under Frank Peter Zimmermann, and as a conductor, recording the complete symphonies of Sibelius with the BBC Philharmonic and including three fragments that may have been notes for the composer's destroyed Symphony No. 8. He also recorded the complete symphonies of Nielsen with that group. Despite his dual specialties, Storgårds has rarely led an orchestra from the violin. In 2022, he conducted the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in a new recording of the Sibelius and Nielsen violin concertos with young virtuoso Johan Dalene, and by that time, his recording catalog comprised well over 50 items.
© James Manheim /TiVo
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