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Getting to Know: Juho Pohjonen

“I receive something valuable through music – and I hope that each listener will feel that they have too.”

On his music education:Pohjonen email
“I started to play violin in a children’s music school at the age of two-and-a-half. My brother – now also a professional pianist and a composer – was already studying piano at the Sibelius Academy, so it was a natural decision for me to play an instrument as well. When I was four, I began to study piano at the suggestion of the piano teacher in the music school.”

“I played violin for several years before I realized I would never become a violinist, the physics of it. I don’t have the flexibility for it. But piano — I have never had any trouble acquiring the techniques.”

On his major professional debut at Carnegie Hall in 2004:
“There was a cancellation at Carnegie Hall. Another Finnish pianist was going to play there, but he had to cancel because he got another concert. So I went there and got a very good tribute from the New York Times.”

“Andràs Schiff has always been one of my favourite pianists, so I was delighted to become acquainted with him at a masterclass he gave at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki in 2003. Since then he has invited me to his courses elsewhere in Europe, such as in Lucerne and Schwarzenberg, and I’ve also had some private lessons with him. Salonen’s music became familiar to me when I was 16 years old; I selected his piece Yta II for a national piano competition in Finland, where I was awarded a special prize for the best performance of a contemporary Finnish work. However, I didn’t get to know Salonen personally until 2004 – and it was Mr. Schiff who introduced me to him. Schiff found out that I was about to perform all Salonen’s piano works at my debut recital in New York, and he thought I should first play them to the composer. Naturally, I was excited to have a chance to meet the composer of music I had studied for nearly 10 years. Eventually, I played the pieces to him, and he liked the performance — so much so that he later brought his manager to my recital in Helsinki, and that is how I came to be with the Van Walsum agency.”

“Praise is always nice, but usually I listen to other musicians instead of critics — I can get much better feedback.”

On performing:
“Of course, every public performance has the potential to be a key moment – at least that’s how I treat it – but many key moments happen off-stage, such as inner discoveries related to piano playing: my ambitions relate above all to my development as a musician and as an individual. I receive something valuable through music – and I hope that each listener will feel that they have too.”

On Finland:
“I really like the nature in Finland and the landscape, and I guess that reflects in my playing. I think that we have a very unique culture, which is not really European and it’s not Russian or anything else. It’s very unique.”
“Geographic isolation has preserved many unique features of our culture, and this enables us to look at Western art from an original viewpoint and create something new from it.”

(Sources: Kalamazoo Gazette,