Leif Segerstam, born in 1944, is one of the most versatile and interesting musical talents in the Nordic countries. After studies in violin, piano, composition and conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki 1952-63 he continued with post-graduate studies at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.
His initial career as a conductor started with positions in the opera houses of Helsinki, Stockholm and West Berlin, and guest appearances included the Met, La Scala, Covent Garden, Teatro Colon and the opera houses of Cologne, Hamburg and Munich, Geneva and the Salzburg Festival. At the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland Segerstam has conducted Salome, Boris Godunov, Don Carlos, Aida, The Flying Dutchman, Fidelio and Macbeth.
In 1975-82 Segerstam was chief conductor of the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Vienna and 1977-87 of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Helsinki. As Generalmusikdirektor of Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz Segerstam served 1983-89 and still keeps contact as honorary guest conductor. In December 1988 he was appointed chief conductor of the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra till 1995 when he started as chief conductor of the Royal Opera of Stockholm. Segerstam has been the 11th Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra 1995-2007, and is today its Emeritus Chief Conductor. Leif Segerstam is the artistic director of the Turku Philharmonic as well as the chief conductor of Malmö Opera.
The numerous recordings by Leif Segerstam are recognized by critics and public alike as outstanding among modern interpretations: Mahler's, Nielsen's and Sibelius' works as well as contemporary music with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Skrjabin's and Schnittke's works with the Stockholm Philharmonic and Brahms' music with the Rheinland-Pfalz Staatsphilharmonie. The Sibelius- and Rautavaara-recordings with the HPO have received several international awards and nominations.
The Finnish Ondine record company and the HPO completed a joint major project in 2005 with the last volume in a new recording of the complete Sibelius symphonies that has received excellent reviews in the international press. The recent disc of solo songs by Sibelius with orchestral accompaniment, featuring soprano Soile Isokoski as the soloist and Leif Segerstam as the conductor, has likewise been highly acclaimed by leading music critics, and was awarded the MIDEM Classical Award 2007 in Cannes and the BBC Music Magazine’s Disc of the Year Award in London in April 2007.
Leif Segerstam has shown exceptional creativity as composer during all his musical career. The list of works consists of 255 symphonies, 30 string quartets, 11 violin and 4 piano concerti and several other instrumental concerti, chamber and vocal music. Among his original composition cycles are to be mentioned orchestral works dating from around the turn of the millennium that are performed without a conductor and have been eagerly received all over the world; there have been premieres almost monthly.
Since autumn 1997 Leif Segerstam has been Acting Professor of Conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. In November 1998 the Nordic Music Committee NOMUS awarded Segerstam the 1999 Nordic Council Music Prize for his work ”as a tireless champion of Scandinavian music”. In 2004 Leif Segerstam was awarded the annual State Prize for Music in Finland and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal.