He is a brilliant player and a musician of tremendous insight. When he plays, one is aware of not only flawless technique, but also masterly use of tone color, articulation, rubato and dynamics. Most impressive. (Al Kunze – Soundboard)
Otto Tolonen is one of the most versatile and active classical guitarists of his generation. He is an artist who is constantly looking for new repertoire and experimenting with new concert forms and techniques. His career took off when he won top prizes in 20 international guitar competitions between 1995 and 2009, among them the Andrés Segovia (Herradura, Spain), the Markneukirchen (Germany), the Tokyo International and the Guitar Foundation of America.
Tolonen is an active soloist and chamber musician and has performed across Europe, the Americas and Japan. He commands a wide range of musical styles. In his choice of repertoire, he sets the highest quality standards: the dense polyphony of the chromatic fantasies of John Dowland, the complex spectral modulations in Tristan Murail’s Tellur, and the French sound refinement of Georges Migot and Gustave Samazeuihl are just a few examples. He meets these very different requirements with a clear awareness of his musical means, with assurance, sensitivity and intelligence.
A guitarist with extensive teaching experience, Otto Tolonen is a Professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music (Oslo) and teaches also at the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki). He has taught masterclasses both in his native Finland and in Brazil, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the United States.
The focus in Tolonen’s comprehensive guitar repertoire has recently been on music of the 20th and 21st centuries. His internationally acclaimed performances of the guitar works by Hans Werner Henze have made him a highly sought-after interpreter of that composer’s music. In 2015, he released a recording of Henze’s massive Royal Winter Music that was nominated for the best recording of the year by the Finnish Broadcasting Company and for Finland’s Emma Award. The leading Finnish daily also selected it as one of the best recordings of 2015. His latest album Retratos (2018) was described as larger than life in the biggest Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.
Tolonen has completed extensive studies at the Sibelius Academy, from the Junior Academy to the Docmus doctoral school. His current research focuses on European guitar music and musical styles from the latter part of the 20th century. In addition to his studies with Jukka Savijoki and Timo Korhonen at the Sibelius Academy, he has studied with Raphaella Smits in Belgium, Thomas Müller-Pering and Jürgen Ruck in Germany and Oscar Ghiglia in Italy.
Tolonen’s present interests are undiscovered works, old and new, music philology, interdisciplinary projects and new playing techniques. He divides his time between performing, recording and teaching.
Tolonen performs on a guitar made by Canadian luthier Joshia de Jonge and uses D´Addario strings exclusively.