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.
Upcoming engagements in 21/22 season include performances of the Saariaho concerto D’OM LE VRAI SENS with Minnesota Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä as well as with the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana and Juanjo Mena, the Lindberg concerto with Nörrkoping Symphony Orchestra and Karl-Heinz Steffens, as well as the van der Aa concerto “Hysteresis” with the Arctic Philharmonic and Tim Weiss. He will also present the world premiere of a new concerto by Czech composer Ondřej Štochl with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Olari Elts. Kari Kriikku also takes his ‘Bizarre Bazaar’ performances featuring arrangements for solo clarinet and chamber orchestra of folk music ranging from klezmer tunes to Portuguese fado and Hungarian dance to the Kymi Sinfonietta and Belgrade Philharmonic.
Highlights of other new works Kriikku has premiered include Unsuk Chin’s clarinet concerto (2014) which he performed with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano, New York Philharmonic with Alan Gilbert, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Orquesta Sinfonica de Barcelona and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra with Nicholas Collon. In addition to performances with BBC Scottish Symphony, Malmö Symphony and Ilan Volkov, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Jukka-Pekka Saraste, in Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw with Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Xian Zhang, and with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra with Stefan Asbury.
Kaija Saariaho’s D’OM LE VRAI SENS received its premiere with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo which 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, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic with Olari Elts, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin with Ilan Volkov, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with Otto Tausk.
Other highlights include performances of Kimmo Hakola’s colourful concerto with Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, WDR Köln, Indianapolis Symphony, Singapore Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic and New Zealand Symphony, and Magnus Lindberg’s concerto with a spectacular premiere at London’s 2007 BBC Proms with BBC Symphony and Semyon Bychkov, and performances with the New York Philharmonic, LA Phil at Hollywood Bowl, etc. Meanwhile, Kriikku’s ingenious Bizarre Bazaar program, as a homage to the more exotic, less well-known repertoire for clarinet, drew attention all over Finland and around the world.
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 ensemble has been further recognised when in 2009, Kriikku was announced recipient of the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize. Kari Kriikku is on the jury panel for the 68th ARD International Music Competition (Clarinet category) in Munich in September 2019.