This year, in LNSO New Year’s Eve concerts, you will hear Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Mozart’s most popular piano concerto, and two intriguing guests from Finland: Iiro Rantala, the most popular Finnish jazz pianist, and Klaus Mäkelä, possibly the youngest Finnish conductor.


Born in 1996, Klaus MÄKELÄ began his music studies as a cellist, and has presently taken a keen interest in conducting. Only 20 years old, he has already made a far-reaching impact conducting the greatest orchestras of his homeland, including Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, all with reinvitations. In the 2015/2016 season, Mäkelä made outstanding debuts with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, and he excellently led the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in concert at the Helsinki Festival.

This season, Mäkelä will continue conducting Finland’s leading orchestras in concert; in addition, he will record with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and it has just been revealed that he has been chosen as Esa-Pekka Salonen’s assistant conductor for the production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Finnish National Opera from 2019.

Describing Mäkelä’s concert conducting debuts, critics mention “an inherent leadership flair”, “ability to win the musicians’ trust”, “self-confidence and powerful performance, and at the same time, grace and self-control”.

Mäkelä has studied the cello with Marko Ylönen, Timo Hanhinen and Hannu Kiiski, and his conducting teacher is Jorma Panula.

Audiences love Brahms’s and Dvořák’s famous symphonic dances, and, in Klaus Mäkelä’s opinion, “these works uncover a world full of colour, with an expression that varies from sparkling merriment to sorrow and melancholy. It is all bound together by broad melodic strokes and resembles energetically saturated dance.” This is why, in Mäkelä’s view, these pieces by Brahms and  Dvořák are so great.


If you are a fan of jazz music, you certainly are familiar with Iiro RANTALA. His stage presence is powerful, he builds a close relationship with his audience and enchants his listeners with his fascinating piano performance. Iiro Rantala has studied jazz music at Sibelius Academy and at Manhattan School of Music.

Since 2011, Rantala releases his recordings with ACT, one of Europe’s leading jazz record companies, and, according to their website, Rantala’s characteristics include “intelligence, humour, plenty of sentiment, unpredictable ideas and a fine piano technique”. His CD Lost Heroes (2011) won the German Critic’s award as “Jazz album of the year 2011”, and in 2012, Rantala received Germany’s prestigious ECHO award as Best International Pianist.

Rantala’s talent is expressed most vividly in recordings My History of Jazz (fittingly, the CD includes Rantala’s variations on Bach’s Goldberg Variations) and My Working Class Hero (renditions of John Lennon’s songs). He has also recorded together with the Iiro Rantala String Trio, whose members are Polish violinist Adam Baldych and Croatian cellist Asja Valcic. Rantala’s latest CD, How Long Is Now?, was recorded together with renowned world-class percussionist Peter Erskine (who is well-known in Latvia, too), and Swedish bassist Lars Danielsson (who has also visited Latvia before to participate in the festival Rīgas Ritmi).

According to Francisco Cruz, journalist for the French magazine Jazz News, “in Rantala’s music, baroque, swing, fusion, bop, calm jazz and ragtime coexist with melancholy and a good deal of irony. Listening to Iiro Rantala is like reading the works of Arto Paasilinna, his alter ego in literature”. A few of Paasilinna’s juicy texts have also been published in Latvia: The Year of the Hare and The Ten Shrews. Iiro Rantala is eccentric, stylish, full of vitality. He is pleasant to listen to, and each concert is full of surprises, because he plays in many different ways. In Riga, we are looking forward to being amazed both by Rantala’s solo and his performance of Mozart’s well-known Piano Concerto No. 21. You will instantly recognize the second movement of the concerto, which we still recall as soundtrack of the film Elvira Madigan. Let’s see the brilliant Finnish jazz pianist set Mozart alight in LNSO New Year’s Eve concerts on December 28, 29 and 30.

29 Dec

19.00 / Thursday / Riga, The Great Guild


Iiro Rantala -



  • Johannes BRAHMS "Hungarian Dances"
  • Antonín DVOŘÁK "Slavonic Dances"

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