Markku Luolajan-Mikkola is a historically informed musician who plays various viols (violas da gamba) and historical cellos, on which he interprets a wide range of music: his repertoire ranges from the sixteenth century to the present day, and includes some of the most demanding pieces written for his instruments. He is also a pioneer: throughout his career he has embraced projects of a kind unprecedented in his home country, Finland; and his exceptionally creative and enquiring approach seeks to achieve musical expression over the simple recreation of historical musical performances and practices.
Luolajan-Mikkola has been playing recitals and chamber music since the 1990s and has given more than a thousand concerts in over 30 countries. In 2015-2017 he performed Bach’s complete Cello Suites as well as his transcription of the violin Sonatas and Partitas for cello in 83 recitals at all the preserved medieval churches in Finland, as part of his project Peregrina†io.
His Gambaa! concert series, of nine different French Baroque music programmes in three countries, earned the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s Musical Act of the Year award in 2003. The series included the five suites by Antoine Forqueray as well as music from Marin Marais’ five books for bass viol and from the Nouveaux Concerts of François Couperin for treble viol.
Luolajan-Mikkola has a parallel interest in contemporary music, and believes that the future of early instruments lies not only in the music of dead composers but also in the hope that we might better understand ourselves and our time through the possibilities for expression and communication offered by those instruments. He finds inspiration in looking back to earlier times, when more or less all music performed was new; in that spirit, he has premiered more than 20 pieces, most of which he commissioned himself.
In addition to pioneering the Baroque cello and viola da gamba in Finland and founding several period ensembles there and abroad, Luolajan-Mikkola has introduced concert concepts such as Soitto kotiin (‘Home concerts’) at the Helsinki Festival in 2010 and Tule makoilemaan (concerts where the audience listens to live performances while relaxing on a mattress) with the Finnish Baroque Orchestra in 2012. Luolajan-Mikkola was president of the Finnish Soloists’ Association 2003–08 and artistic director of the Finnish Baroque Orchestra 2010–13, and in 2010 founded the BRQ Vantaa Festival, of which he is artistic director.
Luolajan-Mikkola’s 40 or so solo and chamber-music recordings have been enthusiastically acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. As soloist, he has received the National Janne Award, the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s special honour prize and the Classical Music Emma Prize. As a member of the viol consort Phantasm, he has won three Gramophone Awards, as well as other accolades, including the Diapason d’Or, Diapason d’Or de L’Année, Limelight Magazine’s Chamber music recording of the year, Choc du Monde de la Musique, ‘Editor’s Choice’ in Gramophone, and ‘Recording of the Month’ in BBC Music Magazine and Rondo Classic.
Luolajan-Mikkola had begun to teach the modern cello at the Sibelius Academy in 1970s, even before his graduation there; he continued to teach it for a while during the 1980s, and many of his students from that period now play in leading European orchestras. He currently teaches both viol and Baroque cello at the Academy. In support of his belief that children best learn to appreciate music and culture in general when they are 10–18 years old, he has taught at the West Helsinki Music School since the 1980s.
Luolajan-Mikkola obtained his modern cello diploma from the Sibelius Academy in 1983 and earned postgraduate diplomas in both viola da gamba and Baroque cello at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague in 1992. During his years as a student, he was mentored by Arto Noras, Jaap Ter Linden and Wieland Kuijken. He would especially like to thank Paul Tortelier, Laurence Dreyfus and Seppo Laamanen for their encouragement.