John Storgårds

Storgårds is an earthy, powerful, passionate musician with an unprecedented precision, vitality and clarity of the performance. At the same time, his musicianship is characterized by absolute naturalness and delicate phrasing, which transcends the metrical focal points, and the orchestra follows him with fiery will and exquisite attention to detail

The New Listener 11 April 2017
Munich Chamber Orchestra

He is a lavishly gifted, fiercely intelligent, intensely communicative musician, and of the finest interpreters of Scandinavian and Nordic repertoire anywhere in the world. […] his Sibelius Symphony No. 6 was sublime, astonishing, masterful: by far the best performance of this composer I’ve yet heard from NACO. […] Storgårds’ impeccable instinct for structure and propulsion gave the work sculptural dynamism and unshakeable mass. Tension, delicacy, ascetic fury were all carved in vivid bas-relief. The orchestra’s sound was deliciously dark and frosty.

Tales From The Red Chair 3 February 2017
Nationa Arts Centre Orchestra

Storgårds’ view was masterful, starting with his explosive attack on the opening notes. An animated presence, he controlled the work’s epic, powerful sweep with thrilling momentum, while illuminating its stunning atmospheres along the way.

Cincinnati.com 28 January 2017
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

New music of a very, very high quality in a thrilling performance – and we have Storgårds to thank for both.

Gramophone January 2017
Rasmussen Symphony No.2 ‘The Earth Anew’

Think of a mirror that you pass by every day in a room or hallway. Your reflection looks perfectly fine. But one day you bring along some cleaning spray and give the mirror a wipe, only to be taken aback by the newfound clarity and depth of the image reflected back at you. Storgårds took that proverbial bottle of Windex to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, which dates from 1888. The results were breathtaking, mainly because of the honesty and forthrightness with which Storgårds addressed its unabashed Romanticism.

Musical Toronto 08 December 2016
Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Storgards’s dynamic control here and in Nielsen’s Symphony No 5 was stunning.

The Times 03 August 2016
BBC Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

Astonishingly good performance – Storgårds is a tonic for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. He raises the bar for them, and they respond.

Classical Iconoclast 02 August 2016
BBC Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

John Storgårds conducted the BBC Philharmonic on that journey through music expressed with an increasing physical immediacy, culminating in the graphic and almost tangible battle between the abstract forces of good and evil depicted within Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony.

Classical Source 01 August 2016
BBC Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

He’s got the chemistry that can motivate an already impressive bunch of musicians to kick it up an extra notch. […] The ensemble, deftly guided by Storgards, responded with admirable sensitivity and, in the kinetic dance-like passages, great snap.

The Baltimore Sun 21 May 2016
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Mr. Storgards brought exceptional transparency and crisp articulation to Mahler’s colorful orchestral music. […] Mr. Storgards emphasized the discontinuities and jarring turns of the music, as well as the piercing shards of dissonance that Sibelius folds into his deceptively sonorous harmonic language. Yet there was no sense of manipulation about the interpretation. Nothing was oversold or pumped up. The Philharmonic sounded sensational. During the standing ovation, the players clapped along with the audience every time Mr. Storgards took a bow.

New York Times 13 May 2016
New York Philharmonic

Storgårds picked apart the composer’s multi-layered musical lines brilliantly, and never let up in a hugely moving Romanze slow movement.

The Telegraph 28 February 2016
Scottish Chamber Orchestra

There are few conductors around who are more riveting and involving in performance than Storgårds, […] who gave an incredibly detailed account of the orchestral score, bringing wonderful variety to the string textures, an overarching beauty to the winds (especially at the end of the Canzonetta), and great Slavic fervour and anticipation to the dramatic, driving moments. The brass had remarkable ‘bite’. With this conducting, it seemed that a sense of musical space and natural motion just opened out as the work progressed – and the interaction and timing of soloist and conductor were impeccable.

Vancouver Classical Music 16 January 2016
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Storgards presents Beethoven like the raging revolutionary he was. His conducting is valiant, fierce, and passionate, with Beethovenian bursts of violence.

Ottawa Citizen 6 January 2016
National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa

With Storgards, instinct and refinement become one, which is a rare gift indeed.

The Telegraph 21 July 2015
BBC Philharmonic

Bold and incisive as ever Storgårds launched into the work with a ferocious energy constructing a performance of structural integrity and thrilling playing that penetrated right to the core of the work. The crucial elements of dynamic flow and continual movement were compellingly conveyed.

Seen and Heard International 12 June 2015
BBC Philharmonic

Rarely have I heard these works (Nielsens) so convincingly constructed.

Bachtrack 11 June 2015
BBC Philharmonic

Here that vitality is held in balance with an edgy, uneasy calm, as Storgårds explores both extremes to the full, galvanising his BBC players as he goes — neat packaging, fine recording.

Financial Times 5 June 2015
BBC Philharmonic

The sheer force and magnetism of the event boiled down to two words: John Storgards. […] Storgards totally galvanised and ignited the RSNO in a grippingly-atmospheric and dramatic account of Sibelius’s Nightride and Sunrise, where the chill, rustling pace of the gallop had the hair standing up on the back of my neck.

The Herald Scotland 3 May 2015
Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Storgårds conducted the most thrillingly dramatic performance of any symphony I have heard in years.

Seen and Heard International 14 October 2014
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Storgårds had the orchestra blowing the roof off

The Arts Desk 12 October 2014
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Storgårds had begun by conducting the strings-only Bach [C. P. E Bach’s Hamburg] symphony from the violin, a bracing performance more about urgency than suaveness; to end, he shaped the Sibelius suite [Rakastava] with such naturalness that no one would have ever guessed it began life as a work for male-voice choir.

The Guardian 11 August 2014
The Lapland Chamber Orchestra at The BBC Proms

The third piece of the matinee was a vivid performance of the more cheerful Pastorale d’été by Arthur Honegger. This pastoral was composed during a summer holiday on the Alps. The strings, woodwinds and horn worked together to depict the peaceful sensation of a summer idyll. The whole orchestra was vibrating with sentiment at the hands of Storgårds’s light yet impassioned gesture.

Bachtrack.com 10 August 2014
The Lapland Chamber Orchestra at The BBC Proms

Early evidence of the Storgards effect came in Beethoven’s “Fidelio” Overture. Though brief, the program opener spoke volumes about the man on the podium, revealing him to be an artist of bold intention and possessed of both theatrical and lyrical insight.
Not until later did the audience learn he’s also an artist of great resolve.
Under Saturday’s conditions, plenty of musicians would have foundered, fallen victim to distraction by the incredible sights and sounds of nature. Not Storgards. Under duress, he responded by producing incredible Sibelius [Symphony 2]. In that sense, the evening hardly could have turned out any better.

Cleveland.com 28 July 2014
The Cleveland Orchestra at the Blossom Music Center

And who was the driving force behind all this [Holst’s “The Hymn of Jesus”]? Conductor John Storgårds […] It was him who gave us the delightful contrasts of tone and timbre with which the Holst was replete; and who supplied that remarkable energy that fired ‘The Heav’nly Spheres make music for us’ passage, which he drove particularly impressively. He also teased out those eerie Planets-like touches and gave the work such a satisfying overall structure.

seeandheard-international.com 28 April 2014
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Storgårds has a feeling for the tone of [Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite op. 22], its colours and moods, which are difficult to capture, and does not lose sight of the overall picture, even during the occasional dull passages. The conductor developed an atmospherically dense sound panorama from the marvellously played, overcast English horn solo. The orchestra’s playing was disciplined and solid and, as a result, the other three movements of this suite were also rewarding discoveries.

Stuttgarter Zeitung, 6 February 2014
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Chief Maestro John Storgårds is not only a podium player with passionate enthusiasm but a well-versed expert in Modernism, with Peter Maxwell Davies and the Finnish contemporary composers Rautavaara, Tiensuu and Madetoja in his repertoire.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 2014
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

The concert in the well-filled Herkulessaal opened with the dramatic tour de force of Jean Sibelius’s tone poem “Finlandia”. The dark sound was awe-inspiring…The fact that Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” ballet proved to be the highlight was a surprise. The montage techniques of the score and its diverse rhythmic variants were displayed with convincing consistency. The conductor and orchestra drew on their experience with contemporary music. It was a pity that, despite the vigorous applause, they could not be persuaded to play an encore.

Abendzeitung, 4 February 2014
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

On Music Hall’s podium was Finnish maestro John Storgårds, whose direction of this music by his countryman was nothing short of breathtaking.

Cincinnati News, 17 January 2014
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

The conductor, John Storgårds, was leading with exuberant vitality. And the orchestra sounded terrific.

Washington Post, 8 November 2013
National Symphony Orchestra Washington DC

By giving this music room to breathe, Storgårds made us appreciate all the more how one phrase takes wing, or begets another, or changes tempo behind our backs. The notion that Sibelius conceived this symphony as agitprop for Finnish nationalism never entered our heads: we were listening simply to a compelling musical argument, beautifully paced, feelingly played.

The Times, 9 June 2013
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Storgårds is one of the great Sibelians of our day.

The Telegraph, 7 June 2013
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

Storgårds mastery tells in small details such as the observation of the pause before the dramatic reprise of the scherzo or the luminous flickering landscape set before us in the Andante. His recording [of Korngold’s Much Ado About Nothing] now supersedes the Barnet/BBC Philharmonic chandos account, which has done us proud for nearly 20 years.

Gramophone, 1 March 2013
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

At the other end of the programme, John Storgårds, a Finn with real purpose, directed a spanking performance by the SCO of Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony, the so-called Reformation, which demonstrated that the underplayed symphony can retain all its grandeur and solemnity while exuding a terrific dynamism that drives it forward.

Herald Scotland, 10 December 2012
Scottish Chamber Orchestra

… yet Storgårds made the most of the opening movement’s seamless interplay of reflection and purposefulness on the way to its wrenching coda.

classicalsource.com, 9 August 2012
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

The heartfelt beauty of the second movement and episodes of charging strings found within the third were all conveyed well by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted tonight by John Storgårds making his Proms debut.

musicomh.com, 9 August 2012
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

John Storgårds brought out an intense and impassioned performance from orchestra and choir, sending the audience to the interval with a buzz of anticipation for the second half.

MusicalCriticism.com, 11 May 2012
Scottish Chamber Orchestra

The first impression was of a warm, rich orchestral sound, with the orchestra reading his beat without difficulty and playing with enviable clarity. There was a real sense of mystery in the quietest moments, and he built the momentum and power of the climaxes with a sure hand.

Manchester Eve News, 19 March 2012
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

He was supremely in charge of the orchestra, managing to extract a full, rich sound that pulsed with life — sometimes even menace.

The Toronto Star, 16 February 2012
Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Orchestral soloists responded with wonderful contributions, such as oboist Dwight Parry’s beautifully intoned theme in the Funeral March. Here, the mood was spacious and emotional, with the basses vividly setting a foot-dragging tempo. In the Scherzo, Storgårds’ control of dynamic, from soft to Beethoven’s explosive outbursts, was masterful. The horn playing in the trio was one of the joys of this performance. The finale gripped from start to finish.

Cincinnati.com, 3 February 2012
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

The more interesting concert came on Saturday night, with the Finnish conductor John Storgaards replacing James Levine to make his BSO debut in an all-Sibelius program. Storgaards, who is chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic, had persuasive ideas about shaping Sibelius’s vast orchestral outpourings and an ear for drawing out unusual textures. His account of “Finlandia’’ was muscular and driving and “Valse Triste’’ was equally effective, with Storgaards putting down his baton to draw out a chamber-like delicacy in the ensemble work.

The Boston Globe, 18 July 2011
Tanglewood Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra

The build up of dissonant chords in the last movement, just before the final section of it, was without a doubt one of the most thrilling moments I have experienced in the concert hall. I cannot remember any other conductor who went so far in bringing out the harsh wildness of this amazing passage.

Berkshire Review, July 2011
Tanglewood Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra followed Storgårds with energy and commitment; […] they clearly enjoyed playing for him.

Berkshire Review, July 2011
Tanglewood Festival, Boston Symphony Orchestra

But it was, as always, the finale that gripped everybody the most, and Storgårds […] created a magic feeling during the thirty-minute-long movement, […].

Seeandheard-International.com, May 2011
DR Radio, Danish National Symphony Orchestra

To start with, John Storgårds charged Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture with a tragic defiance that the Rautavaara Concerto then began to temper and defuse. It was a joy to hear the 1911 version of Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka that sounds fuller than the often heard 1947 version and, reminiscent of The Firebird, more Russian. […] Storgårds did not rush to achieve rhythmic and timbral ecstasy at breakneck speed and instead, with a wise command of balance, let the wealth of rhythmic impulses grow and the colours gradually emerge – for there were plenty of those. We heard many tasteful solos, and all in all the HPO was in top form.

Helsingin Sanomat, 27 November 2010,
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

John Storgårds had an exact, polished touch, punchy and contained with rhythm, a clear advantage for William Schuman´s Fifth Symphony [for strings]. […] Indeed, [in Beethoven´s 7th Symphony], there was a palpable sense of enjoyment all round and […] it was a masterpiece of clarity.

The Times, 22 November 2010,
Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Storgårds´s long-range, controlled-detonation version of Beethoven´s Seventh Symphony, which built from a stately first movement to the demonic momentum of the finale, was breathtaking.

Herald Scotland, 22 November 2010,
Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Storgårds interpreted this important piece [5th Symphony by Shostakovich] in terms of the private Shostakovich hiding behind the public statement, whilst managing to get away with empty propaganda. To say thoughts were provoked would be an understatement.

Birmingham Post, 8 June, 2009,
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Hameenniemi’s Chamber Concerto (1997) allowed Storgårds to show his solo style, thriving on the zealous and ferocious. There were furtive glances and wry smiles during the improvisation – rich, jazzy first movement, and slightly wacky solo passages in the second and fourth. The introspective third movement was the most engaging musically, evoking melancholy and regret through sustained, sensitive playing.

The Australian, 10 June 2008,
Australian Chamber Orchestra

The programme was outstandingly performed, with the BBC forces at the top of their game under Storgårds’ authoritative baton. Butterworth’s rhapsody A Shropshire Lad […] was realised with a piercing sense of vulnerability. The heightened expressivity of [Schoenberg’s] “Peace on Earth” was eloquently conveyed, and Sibelius’s Fifth was delivered with a coherence and sweep that made its famous final chords utterly transfixing.

The Guardian, 12 March 2007,
BBC Symphony Orchestra

The Ondine release of Corigliano’s Second Symphony also has an uproarious orchestral showpiece called the “Mannheim Rocket”, full of quotations from Mozart, Brahms, Wagner etc. The performance from the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Storgårds absolutely fizzes, and as always with Ondine, the recording is wonderfully vivid.

BBC Music Magazine, October 2006, Corigliano CD (Ondine),
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Storgårds’ record is already impressive, and was not belied by anything in the testing first half of Knussen’s original programme[…].Even without the composer to conduct them, Knussen’s “Whitman Settings” made a potent effect – Storgårds had clearly studied them with scrupulous care […] a lovely performance.

Financial Times, 29 July 2005, Debut BBC Proms,
BBC Symphony Orchestra

A feast for the connoisseur […] The Finnish conductor John Storgårds ensured that every phrase had atmosphere and idiomatic colour. […] “The Fairy’s Kiss” was nothing short of a triumph.

Daily Telegraph, 27 July 2005, Debut BBC Proms,
BBC Symphony Orchestra

Storgårds as violinist

Eero Hameenniemi’s Chamber Concerto exemplified this with a traditional four movement form within which his compatriot, violinist John Storgårds, carved out highly personal improvised solos of rugged truculence, with moments of flinty virtuosity as the bow was applied to the string like a free-wheeling sculptor striking sparks with every stroke.

Sydney Morning Herald, 20 June 2008,
Australian Chamber Orchestra

Storgårds delivered amazing improvised solos along the way. His liquid bowing contrasted with aggressive double stopping chords and feather-light pizzicato. Mirror image dueling with members of the orchestra hinted at a sense of fun which became more overt when Storgårds whistled a duet with his violin harmonics.

West Australian, 13 June 2008,
Australian Chamber Orchestra

This ist he best recording of the D minor violin concerto [by Schumann], I have ever heard.

American Record Guide, 1997, Schumann CD (Ondine),
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra

Press