Markku Luolajan-Mikkola, artistic director of the festival, is one of the leading performers, educators, organisers and innovators on the Finnish early-music scene. He plays various viols and historical cellos and has been appearing in recitals and chamber ensembles since the 1990s. Thanks to him, the majority of the works in his repertoire ranging from the 16th century to the present day have received their first performance in Finland.
In the course of his career, Luolajan-Mikkola has already given over a thousand concerts in various parts of the world. In addition to his native Finland he can, in 2020, be heard in Germany, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Estonia and the United States.
In 2015–2017, Luolajan-Mikkola performed music by Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray at five concerts in the Sibelius Academy’s prestigious Soiva akatemia series. Last year saw the completion of a Peregrina†io tour project during which he performed Bach’s complete cello suites as well as his transcriptions for cello of the violin sonatas and partitas at each of Finland’s medieval stone churches. The Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) honoured him with its Musical Act of the Year award in 2003 for a series of concerts entitled Gambaa! focusing on French Baroque music.
The significance and future of historical instruments will not, Luolajan-Mikkola believes, be restricted to the performance of music by composers from ages past; they will also increase our understanding of our own era and revitalise the instruments’ expressive potential. The majority of the numerous works premiered by him are ones he has personally commissioned.
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola has an impressive discography: nearly 50 discs of solo and chamber works, many of them in world premiere recordings. They have won him a Finnish Janne Award, an Yle special honour prize and a Classical Emma (2007), and been singled out as Best Record of the Year by the leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat. Luolajan-Mikkola is a founding member of the Phantasm viol concert that has garnered such major accolades as three Gramophone Awards (1996, 2004, 2017), a Diapason d’Or de l’année (2017), and Limelight Magazine’s Best Chamber Music CD (2015). Phantasm’s releases have also won numerous other distinctions, such as a Gramophone Editor’s Choice (five times), a BBC Music Magazine Record of the Month (three times), a Diapason d’Or (twice), a Gramophone Critic’s Choice, a Choc du Monde, a Presto Classical Editor’s Choice and Rondo magazine’s Record of the Month. Its recordings have also had some twenty or so nominations for major prizes.
In 2010, Markku Luolajan-Mikkola founded Finland’s leading early-music event – the BRQ Vantaa Festival (originally the Vantaa Music Festival) of which he is still Artistic Director. He has been teaching at the Sibelius Academy and other music colleges since 1976. From 2005 to 2015 he was an Honorary Member of the Senior Common Room during Phantasm’s residence at Magdalen College, Oxford.
Markku Luolajan-Mikkola graduated in modern cello from the Sibelius Academy in 1983 and earned postgraduate diplomas in both viola da gamba and Baroque cello at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague in 1992.