Winners of the 1982 Maj Lind Piano Competition: Jari Salmela (left), Teppo Koivisto, Olli Mustonen and Ilkka Paananen. Sibelius Academy Archive

In the 1980s, the Piano Competition held composition competitions


Works composed specifically for the Maj Lind Piano Competition began to be heard in the 1980s. These included both piano concertos and little five-minute pieces. A big step forwards was taken in the finals when the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra took the stage instead of the student orchestras.

1980 & 1981

No competition was held in 1980 or 1981.


The Maj Lind Piano Competition was held for the 22nd time in 1982 (on November 13–19). The winner was Ilkka Paananen. The second prize was shared by Teppo Koivisto and Olli Mustonen. The money prizes were worth 14,000 and 6,500 marks (nowadays equivalent to about €5,500 and €2,500). Jari Salmela came third and Katariina Liimatainen fourth. A total of 26 pianists took part in the competition.

Ilkka Paananen also received an honorary award of a Bechstein grand piano. This had been bequeathed to the competition in his will by Magnus Ehrnrooth, who had died that year at the age of over 80. Ehrnrooth was described as a good pianist and a great music lover who had often been seen at concerts in Helsinki for more than 60 years.

Paananen says the piano was a real godsend for him. The old grand had a fine sound, and he in fact valued it more than the money prize. Some repairs had been carried out, and more were made at the estate’s expense even after the piano had been delivered to the winner’s home.

Paananen also vividly remembers the Chairman of the Jury, Erik Tawaststjerna, and his ability to inspire the young players. The foreign members of the Jury included Bruno Lukk (Tallinn) and Stanislav Knor (Copenhagen).

The finals were held at Finlandia Hall, where the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

In the first round, the competitors had to choose one of seven new Finnish compositions: Deductions 1 (III–V) by Mikko Heiniö, the Piano Sonata 1979 by Eero Hämeenniemi, Je chante la chaleur désespérée by Jouni Kaipainen, Three Small Piano Pieces by Magnus Lindberg, the Prélude non-mesuré by Jukka Tiensuu, Symmetry by Tapio Tuomela and Intermezzo No. 1 by Harri Wessman.

A competition was held for the composition of a new piano concerto. This was also the year in which the Sibelius Academy celebrated its 100th anniversary. The first prize in the composition competition was divided between Paavo Heininen and Usko Meriläinen, who added a Piano Concerto and a Kinetic Poem to the repertoire, respectively. The third prize went to Tapio Tuomela. The members of the Jury for this part of the competition were Liisa Pohjola, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Ulf Söderblom, Tapani Valsta and Eero Hämeenniemi.

Ilkka Paananen (b. 1960) was 22 when he won the competition. Three years later, he was awarded the prize of the Danish Sonning Music Foundation. He had begun studying at the Kuopio Conservatory before proceeding to the Sibelius Academy, were his teachers was Eero Heinonen. He also studied with Ralf Gothóni, and in London with Phyllis Sellick. Nowadays known above all as a Lied accompanist, he has worked with many of Finland’s must celebrated singers. He has also been involved in a number of crossover theatre, film and TV productions.


No competition was held in 1983, 1984 or 1985.


Unlike all the other competitions so far, that in 1986 was held in the spring (February 23–March 4), the reason being that the Jean Sibelius Violin Competition was scheduled for the autumn. The Maj Lind Piano Competition was now held for the 23rd time. The winner was Raija Kerppo; Heini Kärkkäinen came second, Pentti Rättyä third and Kimmo Kepsu fourth. There were 19 competitors.

The Jury was chaired by Einar Englund, and the members were István Lantos (Budapest), Gunnar Sjöström (Gothenburg), and from Finland Risto Kyrö, Jaakko Somero, Jukka Tiensuu and Marita Viitasalo.

In the second round, the competitors had to play either Solo II by Kalevi Aho or Conte pour piano op. 27 by Jouni Kaipainen.

Raija Kerppo (b. 1961) was 24 when she won the competition and a student of Erik T. Tawaststjerna at the Sibelius Academy. Three years later, she won the top prize in the Nordic Piano Competition in Denmark. She later furthered her studies with Martin Canin at the Juilliard School, New York and is nowadays a freelance artist and a teacher at the Central Uusimaa Music Institute.


No competition was held in 1987.


For the 24th Maj Lind Piano Competition on November 20–29, 1988) a composition competition was held for students at the Sibelius Academy. The aim was to find a piece for the competition lasting about 5 minutes. Out of the 28 entries, four were selected for the second round: Von Elise by Osmo Honkanen, Sonatine by Keira Hölttö, Transformazioni by Jukka Koskinen and Extensions avec les mains géométriques by Timo Laiho. The decision was made by Kalevi Aho and Erik T. Tawaststjerna.

This year for the first time, the finals included a chamber music part in which the pianist performed with a violinist or cellist.

The orchestral finals were held at Finlandia Hall. Instead of a student orchestra, the pianists were now accompanied by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pertti Pekkanen.

The Jury consisted of Tuomas Haapanen (Chairman), with members Kalle Randalu, Jacques Rouvier, Kari Kurkela, Margit Rahkonen, Izumi Tateno and Pekka Vapaavuori.

The competition was won by Kari Tikkala and the second prize was divided between Eeva Havulehto and Timo Koskinen. The third prize went to Tarmo Järvilehto. 27 young pianists took part, and the winner was awarded a prize worth 25,000 marks (nowadays equivalent to about €7,000).

Kari Tikkala (b. 1963) was 25 when he won the competition. He had been studying as a pupil of Liisa Pohjola at the Sibelius Academy for five years and this was his third attempt at winning the competition. His teachers had been Jouko Juntunen at the Länsi-Pohja Music Institute in Kemi and Pekka Vapaavuori at the Oulu Conservatory. He had also studied with Gunnar Hallhagen in Stockholm and György Sebök in Switzerland. Kari Tikkala became a pianist and harpsichordist and taught at the Juvenalia Music Institute in Espoo and at the Sibelius Academy.


No competition was held in 1989.


Text: Katri Maasalo