|Artistic Directors violinists Antti Tikkanen and Minna Pensola|
For two frenetic weeks in July, Kuhmo in Eastern Finland is a host to a chamber music festival attracting thousands of music lovers. In that fortnight, this town of 8,000 inhabitants echoes to the sound of music against a backcloth of a lake that almost laps the walls of the concert halls in the clear, unbelievable northern light.
The concerts are held in three wonderful wooden venues – in Kuhmo’s beautiful old church (built in 1816), at the Kuhmo Arts Centre (built in 1993) and in the Tuupala School (2018). The concert venues are all within walking distance of one another, or bicycles are a popular means of getting about, for artists and audiences alike. Music is everywhere. There are concerts from morning to late at night, and people just live for the music. In the evenings, gathered round an open fire in the yard of the festival restaurant, musicians and festival-goers get together and
strike up friendships.
In over 52 years, Kuhmo Chamber Music has grown to become one of the world’s foremost music festivals. As early as 1989, the prestigious American journal Connoisseur was already calling it “possibly the best anywhere”. In summer 2014 the British Financial Times described it as “a remarkable event, where unfettered creative idealism reigns”. The Austrian music magazine Festspiele rated Kuhmo among the world’s leading festivals in 2008−2016. In 2018 Kuhmo Festival got the Cremona Musica Award in Italy.
Each year Kuhmo adopts a different theme. In 2023 the theme will be “Roots and wings”. Kuhmo will be the Finno-Ugric Capital of Culture 2023, which will also give the program a special flavour.
The Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival will run from 9 to 22 July in 2023.
The number of concerts will be around 60, 4–5 per day. Among the pieces will be traditional chamber works, but also surprises, novelties and exotic experiences. In addition to the main concerts there will be children’s concerts, student concerts, talks on the programmes for the day, instrument demonstrations, meetings with artists and composers, art exhibitions workshops and unexpected musical moments in the surrounding nature. Together these side events will amount to some 30 events.
Around 100 international artists will come and perform in Kuhmo. Among them will be pianists Heini Kärkkäinen and Olli Mustonen, violinists Daniel Rowland and John Storgårds, cellist Maja Bogdanović and flutist Janne Thomsen. Ensembles will include the Castalian, Danel and Meta4 string quartets and the Storioni Trio.
The best flight connections to Kuhmo are through the Finnish capital Helsinki. Take the first flight to Helsinki and another one from Helsinki to the nearest airport in Kajaani. There is a transportation service from the airport to Kuhmo. Timetables: finnair.com
It is possible to stay in Kuhmo in hotels, hostels and even private houses. The best hotel in Kuhmo is the Hotel Kalevala. The Vuokatti holiday region near Kuhmo has further accommodation for concert lovers.
Between the concerts there are other kinds of culture and nature activities in Kuhmo. How about exploring the summer art exhibitions or paddling in the sunset? More information: wildtaiga.fi