Just over 20 years have passed since Avanti! was founded, and since then the chamber orchestra has profiled itself as a quite extraordinary artistic powerhouse. The fact that the ensemble was to be as important to Finnish music as it has been was beyond the dreams of the conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste when they established the orchestra in 1983.
At a very early stage Avanti! was structured so they could also work flexibly and change as required from string quartet to symphony orchestra.
Avanti! have no wish to remain stuck in any particular stylistic framework; they see themselves as specialists in all styles – but with a special veneration for contemporary music.
That this should be understood in a very broad sense can be seen for example in a surprising phenomenon like HumppAvanti!, where the orchestra, in collaboration with the multi-musician Timo Hietala, has realized a totally original mix of popular and folk music elements. The result is both virtuosic and humorous in a way that recalls Frank Zappa.
Their very first recording won them the Gramophone Prize of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE), and subsequently their far-reaching activities have been documented by many high-quality recordings.
Since 1986 Avanti! has had its own festival, Summer Sounds, in Porvoo.Over the past few years in particular their travelling activities have increased considerably, and the orchestra has aroused attention at concerts and festivals in a wide range of European countries.
The orchestra frequently works with leading Finnish conductors and with internationally renowned soloists and conductors like Heinz Holliger, Oliver Knussen, Ralf Gothoni, Gidon Kremer and Charles Neidich.
Since 1998 the artistic director of Avanti! has been the remarkable Finnish clarinettist Kari Kriikku, himself nominated for the Nordic Council’s Music Prize in 2001.