As reported in the New Yorker it is not an uncommon occurrence for this consummate artist to bring his audience to its feet, even if the repertoire, or Kriikku himself, is being heard for the first time. A champion of contemporary music, Kari Kriikku is renowned for his interpretation of virtuosic new clarinet works written for him by composers such as Michel van der Aa, Unsuk Chin, Magnus Lindberg, Kimmo Hakola, Kaija Saariaho and Jukka Tiensuu.
The 2018/19 season will see Kriikku perform Saariaho’s “D’OM LE VRAI SENS” with the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin and Ilan Volkov, the Lindberg concerto with the Real Filharmonia de Galicia and Paul Daniel as well as the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Osmo Vänskä, and the concerto by Kimmo Hakola with Turku Philharmonic and Magnus Lindberg as well as Deutsche Radiophilharmonie and Pietari Inkinen. He also brings Michel van der Aa’s “Hysteresis” written for small ensemble and electronics and his ingenious Bizarre Bazaar programme to the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival. Highlights of other new works Kriikku has premiered include Unsuk Chin’s clarinet concerto (2014) with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano.
Performances continued with New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert for the US premiere, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with Nicholas Collon. He also performed it under the baton of Ilan Volkov both with Glasgow’s BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Malmö Symphony Orchestra, with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Xian Zhang.
Kaija Saariaho’s “D’OM LE VRAI SENS” received its premiere with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo, and has since been performed with New York Philharmonic and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig with Vladimir Jurowski, BBC Symphony Orchestra with David Robertson and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic with Olari Elts.
Other highlights include performances of Kimmo Hakola’s colourful concerto with Semyon Bychkov (WDR Köln and La Scala, Milan), and Magnus Lindberg’s concerto with a spectacular premiere at London’s 2007 BBC Proms with BBC Symphony and Bychkov. With Quattour Diotima he premiered Kaija Saariaho’s “Figura” at the 2016 Venice Biennale festival and 2017 Présence Festival, Paris. Kriikku has recorded most of these works for Ondine including Jukka Tiensuu’s “Missa” with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and John Storgårds.
Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto recording was nominated in the 2006 Gramophone Awards and the new Saariaho work with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo won the Jury’s Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2013. Kari Kriikku’s musical inventiveness and fresh attitude towards traditional performances not only as a soloist, commissioner but also as Artistic Director of Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, have been further recognised when in 2009, Kriikku was announced recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize.