VALERY ABISALOVICH GERGIEV, is a Russian conductor and Artistic and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. One of the world’s best-known conductors, he also works with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the New York Metropolitan Opera and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Born to Ossetian parents in Moscow on May 2, 1953, Valery Gergiev grew up in the town of Vladikavkaz in the Republic of North Ossetia. He studied orchestral conducting with Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatoire and in 1978 was appointed Assistant Conductor of the Kirov Opera, where he made his debut in Sergei Prokofiev’s opera War and Peace. He was appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Kirov Opera (now the Mariinsky Theatre) in 1988, and General Director of the Mariinsky Theatre in 1996.

Maestro Gergiev and his orchestra have visited Finland many times and view the Mikkeli Music Festival, in particular, with great affection. Valery Gergiev has been Artistic Director of the Mikkeli Music Festival since 1993.


The Mariinsky Theater or Maria Theater, founded in 1860, is an opera and ballet theater located in St. Petersburg, Russia. The theater was named after Empress Maria Aleksandrovna.

The Principal Condactor and General Director of the Mariinsky theatre orchestra is Valeri Gergijev. Under his leadership orchestra has become one of the top twenty orchestras in the world.

Anna Pavlova, Vatslav Nižinski and Rudolf Nurejev have danced in Mariinsky Ballet during its history. Almost all the major Russian operas, such as Mikhail Glinka’s ”Ruslan and Lyudmila”, Modest Musorgski’s ”Boris Godunov” and ”Hovanštšina”. as well as all Pyotr Tchaikovsky's operas have been premiered at the Mariinsky Theater. In 1887 on the premiere of ”The Enchantress” Tchaikovsky conducted the orchestra himself.


St. Michel Strings, based in the city of Mikkeli, is a professional string ensemble of 12 full time musicians. St. Michel Strings dates back to 1903, when a small town of only a few thousand residents had a local music association that founded an orchestra. The ensemble had far higher aspirations than its amateur status. It eventually became a fulltime professional ensemble, and in 1990 became one of the cultural organizations publicly funded by the city of Mikkeli.

St. Michel Strings has enjoyed renaissance since the appointment of Music Director Sasha Mäkilä in the fall of 2012. Mäkilä returned to his home country after serving as Assistant Conductor of the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra and Orchestre National de France.

St. Michel Strings has won acclaim for its innovative programming of works for strings and has also become known for its eagerness to collaborate with young composers from Finland and abroad. In order to diversify its concert offerings, St. Michel Strings engages in numerous other partnerships as well, regularly performing joint concerts with other ensembles. The chamber configuration of the ensemble allows for easy mobility while still providing a full and authentic concert experience, sometimes even without a conductor.

Among its recent accomplishments, St. Michel Strings participated in the prestigious Great Mountains Music Festival in South Korea in summer 2013, and its recording Adagio, conducted by Grammy Award-winning conductor and composer José Serebrier, got Latin Grammy Award nomination. Recently St. Michel Strings has collaborated with soloists such as violinists Clara-Jumi Kang and Zia Hyunsu Shin, cellist Jian Wang and pianist Olli Mustonen. Celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius included St. Michel String’s tour in South Korea and China in March 2015 with Sibelius’ music.


Erkki Lasonpalo had studied conducting under the leadership of Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstam at the Sibelius Academy. He has been leading the most significant orchestras in Finland since 2012, such as Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Oulu Symphony Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Lapland Chamber Orchestra, also the Kuopio, Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Vaasa, Pori, Jyväskylä and Joensuu City Orchestras. He has also worked in opera productions in addition to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet at the Oulu Opera, the Savonlinna Opera Festival and the Kokkola Opera. Lasonpalo has also been a conductor of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

Lasonpalo has been working as the Artistic Director of Heinävesi Music Days since 2014 and Artistic Director of Kemi City Orchestra since 2016, also he has been the Artistic Partner of Mikkeli City Orchestra since 2017. He is also Artistic Director of Helsinki Sinfonietta. In the beginning of 2019 Lasonpalo has been named as the Artistic Director of Vivo, the national youth symphony orchestra.



The Symphony Orchestra Vivo is a Finnish National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. The average age of musicians is about 19 years old and the age range is 14-26 years. Most of the musicians are full-time students in different institutions of musical education. Vivo offers them a magnificent opportunity not only to get a professional knowledge and training, but also a valuable experience of performing in orchestra.

Vivo was founded in 1986 by the conductor Kari Tikka and a group of young musicians. Helsinki debut concert was organized at the Old Student House in late spring of 1989, after which the orchestra has regularly performed in different parts of Finland.

After Kari Tikka, artistic directors have been Mikko Franck (1997-1999), Tibor Bogányi (2000-2002) and Esa Heikkilä (2003-2016). Conductor Erkki Lasonpalo has been named as the Artistic Director of Vivo in the beginning of 2019.

Over the past 30 years Vivo has been the professional career start for hundreds of young musicians. Vivo’s repertoire covers all types of orchestral music from symphonies and operas right up to tangos and film soundtracks arranged for a symphony orchestra. However, the focus of the repertoire is on the great symphonies and tone poems (by composers such as Sibelius, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Mahler and Bruckner).

The Vivo Symphony Orchestra has also visited Hungary, Georgia, Canada, the United States, Russia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany with their concerts.


Viljami Kemppinen from Mikkeli (b. 2002) is studying violin at Sibelius Academy’s Junior Academy as a student of Päivyt Meller. Before that he was a student at the Mikkeli Music Institute (teacher Merja Claussen).

Despite his young age, Viljami has already attended numerous music camps and master classes, under the direction of teachers Mimi Zweig, Yuri Zhislin, prof. Joan Kwuon, Grigory Kalinovsky, Arvo Leobur and Dan Zhu.

Viljami has already performed six times as a soloist with the St. Michel Strings Orchestra. In Mikkeli Music Festival he will make his soloist debut with the Vivo Symphony Orchestra.


Born in Tbilisi , Georgia, Alexander Toradze graduated in 1978 from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. In 1983, while on tour with the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra of Moscow, he requested asylum at the American Embassy in Madrid and has since made his home in the United States.

In August 1991, Alexander Toradze was appointed the Martin Endowed Professor in Piano at Indiana University, South Bend. The members of his multinational piano studio have won honours at prestigious piano competitions and perform with orchestras and in recital series throughout the world.

Distinguished above all for the highly emotional intensity of his playing, he has enriched the great Russian pianistic heritage with his own unorthodox interpretative conceptions, deeply poetic lyricism, and intense passionate excitement. Since 1993 Alexander Toradze has been a regular guest at the Mikkeli Music Festival.


Eero Tarasti (b. 1948) has delivered speeches at Mikkeli Music Festival since its beginning. He has acted as a professor of musicology in the University of Helsinki in 1984-2016. He has supervised 110 doctoral theses in Finland and abroad. Tarasti’s publications – a.o. 40 books in English, French, Italian, Finnish and Chinese - deal with central composers of the European classical music – and semiotics. He also appears as chamber musician with the ensemble of Music Society of Helsinki University, and has published two novels. He is honorary doctor at Indiana University, Bloomington, New Bulgarian University Sofia, Estonian Music Academy, University of Aix-Marseille and Music Academy of Cluj Napoca, Romania.