Whether in orchestral concerts or leading operatic performances, the Finnish conductor Eva Ollikainen impresses audiences with her clear communication, infectious enthusiasm, and her nuanced technique.
With the beginning of the 2020/21 season Eva Ollikainen takes on the roles as Music Director and Artistic Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and as Principal Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana. She further serves as Principal Conductor of the Nordic Chamber Orchestra based in Swedish Sundsvall since September 2018.
During her first season with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra she will not only establish a conductors academy for young Icelandic talents, and focus on core symphonic repertoire from Beethoven to Strauss. Together with Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason and composer Daníel Bjarnason she will also lead the Icelandic premiere of his new work for three conductors From Space I Saw Earth, and she will conduct two performances of Wagner’s Valkyrie at the Reykjaviks Arts Festival. Guest appearances in 2020/21 include her debut with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Further promising debuts planned for 2020 will have to be postponed, among others three concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
She decided to pursue a career in conducting while still a young student at the Sibelius Academy, where she studied with Leif Segerstam and Jorma Panula training also as a pianist. At the age of 21 she won the international Jorma Panula Conducting Competition and subsequently worked with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Kurt Masur, as well as the Philharmonia Orchestra and Christoph von Dohnányi as part of the Conducting Academy of the Allianz Cultural Foundation. Also influential was the instruction she received from Bernard Haitink and Herbert Blomstedt as a Conducting Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center.
Eva Ollikainen has subsequently developed a comprehensive repertoire with a focus on the great German symphonies, and has been working with leading international orchestras including the Staatskapelle Dresden, Wiener Symphoniker, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and Brussels Philharmonic. She also conducted performances at the Royal Danish Opera (Turandot), the Gothenburg Opera (Carmen), and the Royal Swedish Opera (The Magic Flute).
"Both of the Wiener Symphoniker’s factory expeditions were led by the Finnish conductor Eva Ollikainen with great dedication and charisma. The harmony between her and the musicians was evident, although this was only their first collaboration together – although it is conceivable that this could just be the beginning of their work together."
Wiener Zeitung, 7 May 2018, Viktoria Klimpfinger
"Unsentimentally, yet with generous phrasing that surges like the tide, she made great music from this somewhat overworked symphony. The enthusiastic Royal Philharmonic gave her a well-earned fanfare."
Svenska Dagbladet, 10 October 2006, Sofia Nyblom (Tchaikovsky No. 5)
"How they managed to achieve such a transparent sound, paired with weight, liveliness and precision, is a mystery to me. The performance was absolutely outstanding. She presented Beethoven as a rhythmic composer, with springy dotted rhythms in the first movement and a clearly-defined Allegretto theme. The following movement, usually presented sentimentally, was luminous and profound. The nymphs danced lightly in the Scherzo – a motion which escalated quickly to a Dionysian frenzy in the Finale. Excellent! The audience was blown away."
Svenska Dagbladet, 22 October 2009, Lars Hedblad (Beethoven No. 7)