Pianist, composer, and conductor Olli Mustonen is an integral part of the classical music scene in his native Finland. He has led orchestras throughout the country and beyond as a guest conductor and has held several directorships. Mustonen has enjoyed a long partnership with cellist Steven Isserlis and is active as a recitalist and concerto soloist, appearing regularly with orchestras and in festivals around the world. In 2021, Mustonen became the principal conductor and artistic director of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mustonen began his studies at the keyboard at the tender age of five; his first teacher was the eminent pianist Ralf Gothóni. Beginning at the age of seven, Mustonen studied composition with one of Finland's most prominent voices in contemporary music, Einojuhani Rautavaara, and Mustonen shares a dichotomy with his compatriot Esa-Pekka Salonen: outside of Finland, Mustonen is more highly regarded as an interpreter of music, whereas in Finland compositions make his name. Mustonen's early composition Toccata for piano, string quartet, and double bass (1989) helped establish his reputation as a composer. He served as the music director of the Turku Music Festival from 1990 until 1992 and co-founded and conducted the Helsinki Festival Orchestra.
In 1991, Mustonen signed a contract with the Decca label and recorded Shostakovich's Preludes, Op. 34, with Alkan's Preludes, Op. 31. While the disc won the prestigious Gramophone Award in 1992 for Best Instrumental Performance, Mustonen did not wind up recording extensively with Decca and mainly records for the Ondine label. He is a well-known fixture on the concert circuit nonetheless and is particularly active in Europe and Australia. One of his lasting musical relationships is with Rodion Shchedrin, who dedicated his Piano Concerto No. 5 to Mustonen. Mustonen gave the world premiere of the concerto in 1999, with Salonen leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Mustonen served as the artistic director of the Tapiola Sinfonietta from 2003 until 2009.
Mustonen's compositions cover a range of styles and genres, from the Three Mysteries for orchestra (2002) to several concertos, piano solos, and chamber pieces, many involving the cello. The Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned his first symphony, Tuuri (2012), and a second one, Johannes Angelos (2013), was commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Mustonen led the orchestras in the respective premieres. In interpreting the cello works, Mustonen has enjoyed partnerships with cellists Steven Isserlis and Daniel Müller-Schott. Mustonen's friendship with Isserlis began when the pair met at a concert in the early 1980s -- when Mustonen was just 16 -- and has continued since as the duo have regularly performed together. In 2014, they were heard on a recording of cello sonatas by Martinu, Sibelius, and Mustonen.
Mustonen received the 2019 Hindemith Prize of the City of Hanau, awarded for outstanding musical achievement in honor of composer Paul Hindemith. That year, he joined Isserlis to issue a recording of sonatas by Shostakovich and Kabalevsky. Commissioned by the Beethoven Festival Bonn for Beethoven's 250th birthday celebrations, Mustonen's String Sextett was premiered in February of 2020. Mustonen began his tenure as artistic director and principal conductor of the Turku Philharmonic in January of 2021.