Principal Conductor and Sibelius Festival's Artistic Director
Taking up the position of principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Sibelius Festival in the autumn of 2011, Okko Kamu began his musical career as leader of the Suhonen Quartet and a violinist in the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He started out as a conductor at the Finnish National Opera, where he had previously served as leader of the orchestra. In 1969 Kamu started to appear as a guest conductor at the Royal Opera in Stockhom, and the same year he won first prize in the international Herbert von Karajan conducting competition in Berlin, which launched his international career in earnest.
Known for his versatility as a musician, Okko Kamu has conducted almost all of the world’s foremost orchestras. He has been principal conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish National Opera, Stockholm Sinfonietta, Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and principal guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra. As an opera conductor he has performed at such venues as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Covent Garden in London and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Since 2006 he has been artistic director of the ‘Music! Ruovesi’ chamber music festival, appearing as a violinist in various instrumental ensembles.
Okko Kamu’s international recording career began when he recorded three Sibelius symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon, as part of a cycle shared with Herbert von Karajan. Since then he has made more than a hundred recordings for such companies as Deutsche Grammophon, BIS, Ondine and Naxos. Among his most recent recording projects is a disc of Sibelius’s Tempest suites, The Bard and Tapiola with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS), which earned his second Diapason d’Or de l’Année. In the coming years he will also record all seven Sibelius symphonies for BIS.
He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1994, and in 2010 was awarded the prize of the Finnish Cultural Foundation. In 2011 he was made a honorary professor.