Ralf Gothóni

Pianist & Conductor



Ralf Gothóni (born in Finland, now living in Germany) has a multifaceted career as solo pianist, chamber musician and conductor throughout the world. He is known for his unconventional music-making, not just as a pianist, but as a musician with a remarkable philosophy about music ad the wholeness of musicianship.

Ralf Gothóni began his studies on the violin at age three and on piano at age five. At fifteen he made his debut as an orchestra soloist and in 1967 was named "debut of the year" at the Jyväskylä Summer Festival.

He has performed at the most prestigious music festivals - Salzburg, Berlin, Prague, Prades, Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, La Roque de Antheron, Ravinia, Tanglewood - and with many of the world's leading orchestras: the Chicago Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Toronto SYmphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Warsaw Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Japan Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra among many others. He appears regularly in concerts both as conductor and soloist, frequently conducing from the keyboard. Ralf Gothóni has preniered more than a dozen piano concertos by such noted composers as Sir John Tavener, Aulis Sallinen, C. Curtis-Smith, Einojuhani Rautavaara and Srul Irving Glick. A noted musical collaborator, he is also a frequent quest artist at the major international chamber music festivals. Mr. Gothóni has some one hundred recordings on numerous labels, including BIS, CPO, Decca, DGG, EMI and Ondine, with whom he has produced more than twenty CDs. Of particular note are his Schubert Interpretations, the piano concertos of Benjamin Britten, Villa-Lobos and Rautavaara. In recent years he has recorded several Cds with music by Alfred Schnittke and Aulis Sallinen, both as soloist and conductor. 

Ralf Gothóni was Principal Conductor of the legendary English Chamber Orchestra from 2000-2009. From 2001-2006 he was Music Director of the Northwest Chamber Orchestra in Seattle. In 2004 he was named Guest Conductor of Deutsche Kammerakademie. He has held many other artistic positions: Chief Conductor of the Finlandia Sinfonietta (1989-1994), Principal Guest Conductor of the Turku Philharmonic (1995-2000), Artistic Director in 1996 and 1998, and Founder of "Musical Bridge Egypt-Finland," a cultural collaboration between Finland and Egypt where his horthern colleagues perform with Egyptian musicians. Since 2009 he has been Artistic Advisor for the Springlight Music Festival in Helsinki. He has also supported classical music in Israel and in South Africa. 

Contact with young musicians is very close to his heart. He is the Artistic Chairman of "Savonlinna Music Academy," a summer institute for chamber music, Lied and opera. He has held the position of Professor at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg (1986-1996), the Hanns Eisler Hochschule in Berlin (1996-2000) and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki (1992-2007). In May, 2000 he was appointed Visiting Professor at the Royal College of Music in London and in 2010 the Musikhochschule Detmold. In 20066, he became head of the piano chamber music department at the "Instituto de Musica Camara, Reina Sofia" in Madrid. Besides giving master classes around the world, he has spent many summers as a faculty member at the Steans Institute for Young Artists at Ravinia in Chicago. In recent years he has served as juror at major international piano competitions. 

A composer of some note, Ralf Gothóni has written three chamber operas, chamber music, songs and the chamber cantata, The Ox and its Sephard (recorded by Ondine), as well as a Concerto Grosso version of this for violin, piano and strings. This concerto was premiered in 1999 with the composer as piano soloist and conductor and his wife, Elina Vähälä as violin soloist. In April 2003, his chamber orchestra arrangement of Hugo Wolf's Italian Songbook was premiered in Stuttgart. His first book, The Creative Moment, was published with great success in 1998. A second book, Does the Moon Rotate, was published in 2001.

Mr. Gothónni has been honored with numerous awards and distinctions including the Gilmore Artist Award in 1994, one of the major awards in classical music, the Schubert Medal of the Austrian Ministry of Culture and the Order of Pro Finlandia.




Einojuhani Rautavaara, 12 Concertos, Ondine Records

“Ralf Gothóni (with the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra) is full of confidence and clarity in moving the work's three movements forward at just the right pace. It's perhaps the least typical of Rautavaara's most familiar styles. There are even passages redolent of Gershwin. Gothóni is right, though, to present these in such as way as to suggest we should accept a wider spectrum of styles as typical of the composer than perhaps we do. The same soloist (for whom it was written) is just as clean and unambiguous in the Second Concerto from 20 years later – this time with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste. This is a more experimental and quizzical work. There is much to latch onto and marvel at. The playing of the soloists and the way they support Rautavaara's idiom ought to go some way towards adjusting your expectations, and adjusting them for the better.” 

- Classical.net – 2011


Rautavaara Piano Concerto No. 1, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra:

“Gothóni is an excellent pianist here; his way with some rhythms makes me suggest he has links to jazz.”

- Fanfare Magazine – March/April 2007


Philip Glass Harpsichord Concerto, Northwest Cahmber Orchestra:

“The performances on the concerto disc are energetic and committed, and recording quality is good. Interesting to see renowned pianist Ralf Gothóni at the helm, directing these two scores. If you’re a fan of the composer, you’ll need no convincing.”

- Fanfare Magazine – March/April 2007


Headline: “Gothoni skillfully leads premiere of fine Curtis-Smith concerto”

“Monday night's Gilmore Festival concert at a full Dalton Center Recital Hall was keenly awaited because Ralf Gothoni, the 1994 Gilmore Artist, was back to play. Gothoni both conducted and played piano. A 22-member, all-string segment of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra completed the overall ensemble. Gothoni displayed fine understanding of his piano role, and a prodigious technique abetted his faithful conveying of Curtis-Smith's music. Gothoni again took the spotfight in the closing section (With Great Energy), where momentum and rhythms led to a surprise ending using the keyboard's top keys. The opening selection was Concerto for Piano and String Orchestra, by Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke. Gothoni conducted while also playing the demanding piano part that used exceedingly dense chord clusters, creating thick textures. Schnittke also relied on very loud repeated hammering on single chords. Yet lyrical, romantic melodies sailed across the musical landscape without warning. Some in the audience -- like me – were intrigued.”

- Kalamazoo Gazette - May 2, 2006


“Joining  the members of  the Ives Quartet was the eminent Finnish pianist Ralf Gothoni, whose polished, expressive  playing made a strong  impression.  The concert was a memorable even for all  who attended.”

- Calgary Herald – September 27, 2005


Aulis Salinen, Barabbas Dialogues Op. 84

“The recording was made during the 2004 Naantali Music Festival, and it sounds like a fully professional effort: clear, focused, dynamically wide-ranging, well-balanced, and clean. Under Ralf Gothoni's excellently paced direction, this is an involving performance of an important work.”

- Classicstoday.com - 2005


Mozart: Concertos for Wind, English Chamber Orchestra/Ralf Gothóni, Avie Records:

“The unifying factor in this set is the excellence of the accompaniments. Finnish conductor Ralf Gothóni became Principal Conductor of the ECO in 2000. Clearly the orchestra holds him in high esteem, for the playing is unfailingly sensitive throughout. All soloists hail from the ranks of the ECO. Retailing at budget price, this is well worth snapping up. Authenticists might not agree with everything, but surely even they would get sucked in to the spirit of it all.”

- Musicweb-international.com – July 2004


“There were some bravos from the audience and some hearty applause, too. Gothoni and Vahala played it cleanly and fiercely, perfectly attuned to its ins and outs. In the pair of piano quartets that provided the bookends to the concert, these musicians came together in a delicate balance of equals, each heard when they needed to be heard without ever forcing he issue. The textures were busy, but also pointed. Gothoni, one of the legion of talented Finnish musicians who do everything from composing music to write books, played with piano lid fully open, but was never overbearing.  He was the articulate, sometimes playful, always driving engine. Mozart’s G-minor Piano Quartet emerged lean and forward, in a performance alive to its contours and never lacking in intensity. Merely pretty was not going to do it for theselplayers. Schumann’s E-flat  Piano Quartet, in their hands, became remarkable for its cogency and concision, and exuberant in its command of counterpoint. The slow movement proved a highlight, a love song that the musicians refused to gild and that nevertheless flowered delicately at its end. The finale, too, was just plain exciting, its rugged themes and rhythm energized like he cavalry to the rescue. In sum, a good night for chamber music.”

- Orange County Register – May 6, 2004


English Chamber Orchestra at the BBC Proms:
“Ralf Gothoni, directing Haydn's Piano Concerto in D major from the keyboard, blended well with the smallish English Chamber Orchestra, making a soft-grained sound that was perfectly audible but never forced. He played – from memory – with great zest, and contributed some stylish cadenzas, extending the one in the second movement into a miniature fantasy.”

- The Independent – August 14, 2002


“When the English Chamber Orchestra and its new chief conductor, the Finn Ralf Gothóni, opened its Barbican concert with Aulis Sallinen's Introduction and Tango Overture for piano and strings, we were looking north, not south. With Gothóni at the keyboard, as he was for the 1997 premiere, the piano adumbrates the kind of bluesy snippet you'd expect to hear improvised in a bar, and the strings sneak in with a nostalgic melody. After the introduction has scattered rhythmic hints of tango-like flower petals, the tango proper breaks in, catchy and imperious.”

- The Independent - November 28, 2001

Villalobos, Chôros No. 11, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra:

“Gothoni and Oramo perform with the enthusiasm of two musicians who were suddenly plucked out of a frozen Helsinki January and found themselves on a two-week vacation in Rio. I hope they return.”

- Fanfare Magazine – May/June 1999