Kuhmo Chamber Music, the oldest and largest chamber-music event in Finland, is set to get underway this Sunday, 9th July. Over the course of the long-awaited two-week festival, we will present a total of 60 concerts featuring over 100 acclaimed artists from Finland and across the world.

The theme of this summer’s festival is Wings and Roots. Kuhmo’s artistic directors, the violinists Minna Pensola and Antti Tikkanen took this idea from the title of a concert at last year’s festival. “The more progress we made in the planning of this year’s programme, the more strongly we felt the power of these words as a guiding principle in our own artistic vision,” Minna and Antti explain. “Coincidence played a part here too, as shortly after deciding on ‘Roots and Wings’ as the theme of this year’s festival, we learned that the city of Kuhmo had been named Finno-Ugric Capital of Culture 2023.”

By ‘roots’, Pensola and Tikkanen seek to pay homage to the history of the festival, and the history of the chamber-music genre too, while ‘wings’ take the festival in new directions. “This summer’s programme is like a house of mirrors, where our eyes and ears are constantly being drawn in many directions at once,” Minna and Antti explain.

Our Finno-Ugric roots can be seen in this year’s programme most explicitly in Ilona Korhonen’s rune-singing performances, at a concert by folk musician Vilma Jää’s vocal ensemble, and in performances of works by Finnish composers ranging from Helvi Leiviskä to Olli Mustonen and Outi Tarkiainen. Many other Finno-Ugric peoples are represented in the programme in works that take their inspiration from folk music, for instance the folk-music tradition of Estonia and especially that of Hungary, which played such a vital role in the music of Bartók and Kodály, but whose influence can be strongly felt in many works by Haydn and Brahms too. The artistic directors wanted to expand this idea by programming many works that draw inspiration from other folk-music cultures around the world. One example of such a work is the string quartet by Amy Beach, which takes inspiration from the folk melodies of the Alaskan Inuits.

This is the first festival programme that Pensola and Tikkanen have planned entirely by themselves. “Of course, composers are rooted in the work of their predecessors, they grow wings which they can use to extend the chain of inspiration running through the centuries. These continua are the adhesive binding our programme together. The history of Kuhmo Chamber Music, now stretching back more than half a century, provided much fertile ground for this year’s programme, which is the first that we have devised entirely by ourselves. The festival has roots of its own, it has a vitality that we can see (and hear) to this day! 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,” they explain in the festival brochure.

Over 200 works, four new commissions

At Kuhmo Chamber Music this summer, we will hear over 200 works, among them, four festival commissions.

Composed by Sampo Kasurinen to a libretto by Aina Bergroth, the chamber opera Trapped Butterfly will be performed on the opening day of the festival, Sunday 9th July. This new work tells the story of Madame Butterfly from a radically different perspective. The work was commissioned jointly by Rauma Festivo, Our Festival and Kuhmo Chamber Music.

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

The programme also features two new commissioned works by Outi Tarkiainen. On Monday 17th July, her work Judith Shakespeare’s Loss will receive its world premiere. The work is based on an aria from Tarkiainen’s opera A Room of One’s Own, which was premiered in 2022. On Tuesday 18th July, we will hear Tarkiainen’s other festival commission, the quintet The Seasons of Love for clarinet and string quartet.

The programme also includes a whole host of traditional chamber-music favourites by Brahms, Beethoven, Schubert and many others. And we haven’t forgotten The Trout quintet; performed every year, this work can be heard on Thursday 20th July. This year, we offer audiences the chance to hear the classics in a new light, as they are always accompanied by newer works to help contextualise them in fascinating ways.

Over 100 artists

This year’s festival features over 100 artists. Kuhmo Chamber Music will host many audience favourites including the Kamus, Meta4 and Danel string quartets and the Storioni Trio. Other familiar faces include the pianists Heini KärkkäinenOlli Mustonen and Iiro Rantala, the violinists John Storgårds, Sergey MalovDaniel Rowland and Elina Vähälä, the viola player Yuval Gotlibovich, the cellists Tuomas Lehto and Senja Rummukainen, the flautist Janne Thomsen, the clarinettists Lauri Sallinen and Christoffer Sundqvist and the singers Tuuli LindebergMari Palo, Virpi Räisänen and Marjukka Tepponen. New acquaintances include the Castalian String Quartet, the Baroque ensemble Scherzi Musicali, the recorder player Erik Bosgraaf and the pianist Silke Avenhaus.

Since our preliminary brochure was published in January, there have been a number of changes to the festival programme. These changes have all been updated on our website. The violinist Vanessa Szigeti will be replaced by Linda Suolahti, the cellist Maja Bogdanović by Anna Westerlund and the pianist Sonja Fräki by Fanny Söderström.

Kuhmo will welcome a total of eleven visiting composers too. In addition to Kasurinen, Bray and Tarkiainen, we also look forward to hosting Osmo Tapio RäihäläRosita PiritoreKrishna NagarajaMarzi Nyman, Iiro RantalaOlli Mustonen, Laura Hynninen and Vilma Jää.

Osmo Tapio Räihälä’s new role at the festival is to present each day’s programmes at our new The Heart of the Day events. In Italy in 2022 Rosita Piritore won the first ever composition competition bearing the name of Vladimir Mendelssohn. Her work Quartetto d’archi will receive its Finnish premiere on Friday 14th July. Krishna Nagaraja, Marzi Nyman, Iiro Rantala, Olli Mustonen, Laura Hynninen and Vilma Jää will present both their own works and those by other composers too.

Preparations in the home straight

“Preparations for this summer’s festival have reached their most intense phase,” says Executive Director Sari Rusanen. “Every artist has a place to sleep and a place to practise, the rehearsal schedules are ready, the staff are in place, all the relevant permits have been obtained, and so on. There are lots of details, but the pieces of the puzzle are all finally starting to fall into place.”

Tickets have been going like hotcakes. So far, we have sold tickets worth a total value of over 300,000 €. The most popular concerts have been Matti ”Esa Pasa” Salminen – Back to the Bassics (concert 28), Doctor, Doctor! (concert 23), Somewhere (concert 16), Working Women (concert 37) and All Quiet on the Ukrainian Front? (concert 9). Nothing is sold out yet, and tickets are still available for all events. So far, ticket sales have been distributed equally across the two weeks of the festival.


The budget for this year’s festival is 910,000 €. Ticket sales account for over 50% of that sum. Additionally, the festival receives generous funding from the Ministry of Education and Culture and the City of Kuhmo. The Finnish Cultural Foundation provided funding for the festival commissions.

The festival has the great pleasure of working with our many partners and friends. Our partners in 2023 are OP Kuhmo, OP Kainuu, OP Ylä-Kainuu and OP Paltamo. Friends of the festival are F-Musiikki Oy, Kainuun Sanomat, Kouta Media, Kuhmo Oy, Lumme Energia, No-Pan Auto Oy, and Osuuskauppa Maakunta.


“Book your place at the wonderful concert venues around Kuhmo, leave your phone at cell phone parking spot and let the music carry you away!” That’s the advice of our festival directors. Tickets for all our events can be purchased in advance at the ticket office located at the Kuhmo town hall and at the door, one hour before the start of each concert.

Programme and artists: www.kuhmofestival.fi

Tickets: tel. +358 40 169 6509

For more information, please contact us at:

Kuhmo Chamber Music , tel. +358 44 544 5162