The Jury of the 1979 competition included Joonas Kokkonen (Chairman), Professors Dmitri Bashkirov (Moscow), Robert Levin (Oslo), Einar Englund, Ralf Gothóni, Timo Mäkinen and Erik Tawaststjerna, and pianist Jussi Siirala.

New Finnish music enters the repertoire in the 1970s


In the 1970s, the repertoire for the Maj Lind Piano Competition included some contemporary Finnish works. It became a longer event and from 1973 onwards was held at three-year intervals. The orchestral finals were first held at Finlandia Hall in 1979.


The eighteenth Maj Lind Piano Competition was held on October 31–November 4, 1970. One of the elective works in the second round was a new Finnish work, the Five Bagatelles by Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996). Kokkonen had himself been a Maj Lind competitor in the 1940s. In the first round, the compulsory work was by a traditional B, the Prelude and Fugue in C (DWK II) by Bach.

In the finals, the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Kari Tikka.

The Jury consisted of composer Einar Englund, Academician Joonas Kokkonen, Head of Yle Music Kai Maasalo and Professors Timo Mäkinen and Erik Tawaststjerna. The Chairman was Professor Taneli Kuusisto and the Secretary Vice-Rector Veikko Helasvuo.

The winner was Risto Lauriala, who played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in the finals. The second prize went to Minna Pöllänen and the third to Arto Vähälä. A prize was also awarded to Jukka Tiensuu. There were ten competitors in all.

Risto Lauriala (b. 1949) was 21 when he won the competition. Before the finals, he had been the soloist with an orchestra only once. His win decided him to make a career as a pianist. He had studied privately with Helge Lück, and at the Oulu Music Institute, where his teachers were Jussi Törnwall and the winner of the second prize in the 1962 Maj Lind Piano Competition, Nijole Kasperaviciute. In 1972, two years after winning the Maj Lind, Risto Lauriala received his piano diploma as a pupil of Timo Mikkilä. He also obtained a BA in music from the University of Helsinki. Having given his debut recital in 1973, he won first prize in the Stepanov Competition in Vienna in 1974. In addition to his career as a pianist, Risto Lauriala has been a lecturer in accompaniment at the Sibelius Academy since 1978.

1971 & 1972

No competition was held in 1971 or 1972.


One of the compulsory works in the nineteenth Maj Lind Piano Competition held on October 27–31, 1973 was again by a Finnish composer, this time the Piano Sonata No. 3 by Usko Meriläinen (1930–2004).

The winner was Folke Gräsbeck. Matti Raekallio came second and Jarmo Eerikäinen third. Eleven pianists took part.

New to the Jury were Professors Greta Eriksson (Stockholm) and Robert Riefling (Copenhagen), music teacher and Principal Pentti Karjalainen and lecturer Leena Siukonen-Penttilä – winner of the first Maj Lind Piano Competition in 1945.

Folke Gräsbeck (b. 1956) was 17 when he won the competition. He was still studying at the Turku Conservatory, as a pupil of Tarmo Huovinen. At the Sibelius Academy he studied with Erik T. Tawaststjerna, and he obtained a Doctorate on the subject of the piano in the early works of Jean Sibelius. He has been a lecturer in accompaniment at the Sibelius Academy since 1985.

1974 & 1975

No competition was held in 1974 or 1975.


1976 marked the centenary of the birth of the competition’s benefactress, Maj Lind. The twentieth competition bearing her name was held on November 6–11, 1976 and had 13 participants.

One of the works in the repertoire for round two of the competition, which lasted a week, was a work composed especially for the occasion: movement I of the Sonata (1975) by Eero Hämeenniemi, or Tensions (1976) by Leif Segerstam.

At the finals at Finlandia Hall, the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Jorma Panula.

The new names on the Jury were those of Professors Jakov Flier from the Soviet Union, Gunnar Sjöström from Sweden and the winner of the 1970 competition, Risto Lauriala.

Two pianists shared the first prize: Risto Kyrö and Juhani Lagerspetz. No second prize was awarded. The third prize went to Kari Kurkela. Lagerspetz also received the prize of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle). In the finals, Kyrö played the Piano Concerto in C Minor, Op. 35 by Shostakovich and Lagerspetz Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Risto Kyrö (b. 1957) was 19 years old at the time. He had studied at the Oulu Music Institute with Nijole Kasperaviciute and others, and enrolled as a pupil of Liisa Pohjola at the Sibelius Academy four years earlier. He had already been the soloist with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Oulu and Pietarsaari Orchestras. He nowadays teaches the piano at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences. His Doctoral thesis was about Schubert’s last year and the concert of his works in Vienna in 1828. 

Juhani Lagerspetz (b. 1959) was 17 and the previous year had won the first prize for under-16s in the Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Competition. He would later win a special prize in the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. He studied with Eero Heinonen and others at the Turku Conservatory and after he transferred to the Sibelius Academy in 1975. Before the competition, he had already been the soloist with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Turku Philharmonic and the orchestra of the Orivesi Music Camp. A Professor of the piano at the Sibelius Academy 2009–2014, he is now a lecturer there.

1977 & 1978

No competition was held in 1977 or 1978.


The twenty-first Maj Lind Piano Competition (November 3–9, 1979) attracted no fewer than 18 participants. Two first prizes were awarded: to Kirsti Huttunen and Arto Satukangas. No second prize was awarded, but there were two third-prize winners: Tuija Hakkila and Anne Kauppi. The prizes were worth 8,000 and 2,000 marks (nowadays equivalent to about €4,500 and 1,000).

In the second round, the competitors had to choose a Finnish work: Erik Bergman’s Aspekter, Einar Englund’s Sonata, Paavo Heininen’s …preludes – études – poèmes…, Usko Meriläinen’s Sonata No. 2, Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Sonata No. 1 “Christ and the Fishermen” or Erkki Salmenhaara’s Sonata No. 1.

The finals were in two parts. The competitors played the first movement of Mozart’s B-flat Piano Concerto (KV 595) in the first and a concerto of their choice in the second. Conducting the Sibelius Academy’s B Symphony Orchestra at the Sibelius Academy Concert Hall was Ilpo Mansnerus. In the second part, Jorma Panula conducted the Sibelius Academy A Symphony Orchestra at Finlandia Hall. Kirsti Huttunen played Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Arto Satukangas Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.

Sitting on the Jury were Academician Joonas Kokkonen (Chairman), Professors Dmitri Bashkirov (Moscow), Robert Levin (Oslo), Einar Englund, Ralf Gothóni, Timo Mäkinen and Erik Tawaststjerna, and pianist Jussi Siirala.

Kirsti Huttunen (b. 1960) was 19 when she won the competition. The previous year she had won the Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Concerto. She had studied at the Jyväskylä Conservatory and performed in the FRSO’s Young Soloists concert in 1976. She had studied with Eero Heinonen at the Sibelius Academy and with Dmitri Bashkirov at the Moscow Conservatory. She is nowadays Senior Lecturer in the piano at the Savonia University of Applied Sciences in Kuopio.

Arto Satukangas (1962–2014) was 17 when he took part in the Maj Lind Piano Competition. He received his piano diploma two years later, made a career as a pianist and lectured in chamber music at the University of Music in Karlsruhe.

Text: Katri Maasalo