The Finnish conductor Esa Heikkilä has been appointed Chief Conductor of the Joensuu City Orchestra (Joensuun Kaupunginorkesteri) in Finland from January 2008, adding this appointment to his positions as Artistic Director of Symphony Orchestra Vivo (Finland’s national youth orchestra) and as Senior Lecturer for Orchestra and Chamber Music at the Lahti Polytechnic’s Faculty of Music. He passed his final Sibelius Academy conducting diploma concert in March 2004 with the highest possible mark. He has appeared with the Sinfonia Lahti, the Turku Philharmonic, the Tampere Philharmonic and Oulu Philharmonic orchestras, the Jyväskylä Symphony Orchestra, Joensuu City Orchestra, Kymi Sinfonietta, Pori Sinfonietta, Lappeenranta City Orchestra and Mikkeli City Orchestra. He has been invited to conduct nearly all of Finland’s orchestras in concert and recordings, as well as acting as assistant to Leif Segerstam in Germany and Lithuania, Mikko Franck and the Belgian National Orchestra, and Osmo Vänskä with Sinfonia Lahti. Outside Finland he has conducted the Haapsalu Festival Orchestra in Estonia for two years and made successful débuts with the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast in October 2004, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra in February 2005 and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders in March 2005. He was immediately re-invited to the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra after making his début with them in February 2006, by the BBC in Northern Ireland after a first engagement there in January 2007, and he returns to Iceland for a third time in October 2007. He has conducted Sinfonia Lahti in symphonies by Shostakovich and Holst’s The Planets in 2005 and 2006.
One of the remarkable aspects of Esa Heikkilä’s career has been his acceptance as a mature student into Leif Segerstam’s conducting class at the Sibelius Academy, having earlier started his conducting studies with Osmo Vänskä. Born in 1962, his outstanding talent as a conductor had already been recognised in Finland when he began the course in 2001 at the age of 37. He had earlier begun his musical career as a violinist in the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, followed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, before becoming leader of the second violin section in Sinfonia Lahti. He has performed as a soloist with several Finnish orchestras and has frequently played as a chamber musician at many festivals in Finland, also making chamber music recordings for the BIS label amongst others.
Esa Heikkilä has been in the foreground during Sinfonia Lahti’s meteoric and welldeserved rise during the last ten years, using his position in the orchestra to study Osmo Vänskä and the other frontrank conductors attracted there by its growing reputation. It is no surprise that his conducting repertoire reflects that of the orchestra, with an emphasis on the music of Sibelius and many other Nordic composers, ranging from Rautavaara, Sallinen, Aho and Pärt to Englund, Klami and Alfvén, through the Russian school of composers to a core orchestral repertoire that also encompasses choral, opera and ballet scores.