• Born 1960
Often appears with
Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen has been one of his country's most vigorous and effective champions of contemporary music. He has given the world premieres of more than 170 works, but has also played music of Beethoven and other mainstream repertory.
Karttunen was born in Finland on September 30, 1960, and took up the cello at age four. Among his teachers were Jacqueline du Pré, William Pleeth, and Erkki Rautio. From 1994 to 1998 he was artistic director of Finland's Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, a group that specialized in contemporary music; he also recorded with that group. Karttunen was also associated with several Finnish festivals in the 1990s, including the Helsinki Biennale. In 1999 he joined the cello section of the London Sinfonietta, remaining there until 2005. In the late 1990s, Karttunen began to amass a large repertory of contemporary works, many of them written expressly for him. These have included the Cello Concerto No. 1 of Magnus Lindberg, which he premiered with the Orchestre de Paris in 1999; Luca Francesconi's Rest, premiered on the RAI in Torino in 2004; and Kaija Saariaho's concerto Notes on Light, premiered with the Boston Symphony in 2007. Karttunen has recorded music by Saariaho for Sony Classical and has also recorded for Naïve, Apex, Ondine, and other labels. Karttunen's recordings include a complete cycle of Beethoven's cello sonatas on historical instruments, with fortepianist Tuija Hakkila. In 2019 he was heard on a recording of Hans Werner Henze's English Folk Songs with the BBC Symphony under Oliver Knussen, on the Wergo label. He has also played Baroque cello, violoncello piccolo, and an electric cello. In the late 2010s he gave recitals featuring multimedia elements. Karttunen lives in Paris with his wife, artist Muriel von Braun. He teaches there at the Ecole Normale de Musique and has given master classes in many countries.