Mika Rannali




Greenwich symphony saves the best for last

The Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto is a staple of the piano repertory, and this reviewer has heard it played by Yevgeny Kissin, Marta Argerich, and the phenomenal Lang Lang. Mika Rännäli's performance was better, blending power, technique, artistic sensibility, and that sort of riveting presence that is simply a gift.

The demanding work seemed child's play for the soloist, whose performance was technically, interpretively, and emotionally perfect.

As an encore (the audience was not giving up), the artist played the quiet "A Reminiscence" (Vanha Muisto) by the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja, announcing that "it wouldn't take long."

Linda Phillips, Greenwich Citizen (April 2010)

(Linda Phillips' column in the Greenwich Citizen won the 2009 Best Column of the Year/Criticism award from the Connecticut Press Club, and was so honored in 2002. Both her novel "To the Highest Bidder", and her music column were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.)



Greenwich symphony closes its season with larks, bagpipes, and "an old memory"

After intermission Mika rännäli joined the orchestra as piano soloist in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1.

Rännäli is a powerful player with unbelievable dynamic range. There were places, like the passages in fast double octaves, where his speed, power, and accuracy produced thrilling textures. Rännäli was able to voice lyricism in the concerto on several occasions, most notably in the Chopinesque figuration of the cadenza passage in the second movement.

Both orchestra and soloist collaborated to make the two opposed dances that comprise the finale sound vivid.

During the final triumphant statement of the work, which was the loudest sound of the evening, Rännäli was still able to cut through with his passagework--loud and clear.

He was greeted with a lasting and noisy standing ovation from the Greenwich audience. Rännäli smiled and pointed toward the piano on his third call-back. He cupped his hands and shouted "Don't worry, it is a short piece." He played a delicate and whispery work called "Vanha Muisto" ("An old memory") by the Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja (1887--1947). Rännäli's most recent CD, called "Intimate Garden" essays the complete works for piano of this composer.

At the close of the encore, Rännäli sat still with his hands on the keyboard as the sound disappeared slowly and silence crept in. It was a magical way to close the season for the Greenwich Symphony.

Jeffrey Johnson, Greenwich Time (April 2010)


a spectacular return

Franz Liszt's Sonata in B minor is a tour de force full of harmonic tension, free of classical restraints and bounding with energy. Mika Rännäli captured all the dynamics of this impressive work. The Finnish-born pianist - having come here as a promising pianist in 1996 - came full circle with a superb performance.

In his handling of the roller-coaster composition, Rännäli ranged from thunderous to sublime effect that included explosive power in dramatic passages, facile technique in runs and sensitivity in lyric phrases. And in the conclusion of his "drama-through-sound," he retarded the tempo, softened the volume and faded to infinity.

Marcus Kalipolites, Times Herald Record (August 2008)


Music from France often gets labeled as vaporous, perfumed abstraction. But at the National Gallery of Art on Sunday evening, the prevailing image wasn't mist -- it was fire.

To complement the exhibit "In the Forest of Fontainebleau”, the Finnish duo performed works by composers associated with the Fontainebleau area's American Conservatory.

Clear, deliberate phrasing and articulation made for an evocative rendition of Copland's Sonata for Violin and Piano. Rannali shined in this work, especially relishing its sprinklings of jazz.

The concert closed with Stravinksy's "Suite Italienne," quick, crowd-pleasing dances from his neoclassical ballet "Pulcinella," which earned both performers their standing ovation.

Ronni Reich, Washington Post (April 2008)

(Debussy, Fauré, Copland and Stravinsky with violinist Elina Vähälä)



madetoja:pIANO PIECES, ALL

Mika Rannali-Alba 206 (2 CD) 81 minutes

Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947) was the next generation after Jean Sibelius. I have long been familiar with the Chandos recordings of his three symphonies and other orchestral music and I have two Finlandia recordings of his opera The Ostrobothnians. Much as I enjoy these works, I had never heard any of his piano music, so I jumped at the chance when our editor offered it to me. Am I glad I said yes! These small pieces written from 1910 to 1921 plus the 5 pieces from 1931 are absolute gems. They don’t sound like Sibelius, though all but one were written when he was at the height of his creative powers.

Leevi Madetoja studied mainly with Sibelius from 1906-10. Then he went to Paris and was a student of D’indy, and, finally, he studied with Fuchs in Vienna and Berlin. He conducted for a few years and later (1916-39) taught in the Helsinki Music Academy and served as a music critic for a Helsinki newspaper (1916-32).

All are miniatures that are carefully written and polished. All are unique and they have a natural, unpretentious tone. One has to listen carefully in order to fully appreciate Madetoja’s genius.

Mika Rannali has a well-earned reputation as one of  Finland’s finest pianists. Alba offers a very lifelike recording and good notes on the music, if not on the composer. This set is one of the 'sleepers' of the year.

Carl Bauman, American Record Guide (March/April 2006)


A multi-faceted pianist at last reveals a long-neglected keyboard oeuvre


With Madetoja’s operas, symphonies and songs now decently represented in the catalogue, the time is ripe for his even more rarely heard piano music. It consists almost entirely of miniatures (there are 33 tracks on the two CDs) and most of it dates from the 1910s – the first half of his career. Not conspicuously individual and often somewhat four-square in phrasing, the style feels like an organic continuation of Grieg and Tchaikovsky, enlivened by mildly diverting harmonic and melodic turns. Part of its attraction is an underlying melancholy. One readily agrees, too, with Mika Rännäli’s identification of its ‘childlike charm, a touch of mischief, wild boisterousness’, what he calls its ‘Ostrobothnian fervour’ I suppose can be taken on trust. The minority of more extrovert pieces can be quite pianistically demanding without ever qualifying as virtuosic.

By far the most ambitious work is the three-movement cycle Garden of Death. ‘One of the best and most poignant works in all Finnish piano literature,’ Rännäli calls it, and that proves no overstatement. The austere, elegiac first movement, composed in memory of composer’s brother who was shot by the Red Guard in 1918 during the Finnish Civil War, brings strong echoes of Rachmaninov. It is followed by a volatile and disturbing waltz with an impressive, sombre conclusion, and by a wistful, restless berceuse.

Rännäli has an interesting mixed portfolio. He is not only a composer but also three-times Finnish champion in Latin American and ballroom dancing – a not irrelevant attribute, perhaps, given Madetoja’s penchant for minuets, waltzes and gavottes. Live performances these may be but they are scrupulously clean in execution and engaging in temperament. Everything is flexible and nicely to scale. Beautifully judged recording quality too.

David Fanning, Gramophone (10/2005)



Mika   RAnnAli
Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall
December 11 1999

Mika Rannali, a young Finnish musician (he appears to be in his early 20s) gave a truly impressive account of himself at his Weill Hall New York Recital Debut on December 11th under the sponsorship of Artists International Presentations. Mr. Rannali, also a composer, has studied violin and trumpet as well as the piano. In addition, he was a three-time Finnish Champion in Latin American and ballroom dancing. Having worked with Eero Heinonen, Matti Raekallio and Ralf Gothóni, our recitalist received his Master of Music degree from the Sibelius Academy and concertized extensively as a soloist and chamber music protagonist, won many prizes at several international competitions and festivals, and has made several recordings for radio in Finland and the United States. He continued his studies at the Manhattan School of Music under the guidance of Nina Svetlanova.

Although he is a technically exciting virtuoso, Rannali 'plays like a composer' in the best sense: His wonderfully penetrating lucidity unfailingly clarifies the style, content, emotional ambience and architectural structure of all the music he chose to illuminate. Along with an impetuosity and charisma that frequently put this listener in mind of his similarly provocative landsman, Olli Mustonen- not to mention Glenn Gould and Horowitz- he audaciously (but quietly) trumpeted himself as a superlative Scriabin stylist in that composer´s Fifth Sonata Op.53 , supremely poised and magesterial accounts of the Russian mystic´s Prelude and Nocturne for the left hand Op.9 and the later Poeme, Vers la flamme Op.72 (the more conventionally romantic Etude in C-sharp minor, Op. 2, No.1 was appended as an encore). Mr. Rannali never made even smallest mis-step as he hurtled and whirled his breathless way through the one movement sonata with cataclysmic directness.

He made a thrilling and stimulating adventure of Alberto Ginastera´s attractively accessible Danzas Argentinas , making the reasons for his mastery in the dance hall wonderfully evident (the particularly rambunctious Danza del gaucho matrero was positively sizzling in its rhytmic energy).

Four pieces in a Rachmaninoff group (the Preludes in G-sharp minor and G-flat major, Op. 32, No.12 and Op. 23 No. 10; and the Etudes-Tableaux in E-flat major Op. 33, No. 7 and C-sharp minor Op. 33, No. 9 ) were elegantly -if somewhat laconically - clarified. I am no admirer of Liszt´s obsessively hammering, quasi-tremolando "Pianola-in-excelsis" repeated chords in his arrangement of Wagner´s Liebestod but Rannali´s ongoing sense of continuity almost saved the day. Another hammering excursion, Einar Englund´s Introduzione e Toccata proved far more palatable in its crisp, objective angularity and brilliance (although I wish there had been some program notes to tell us more about the unfamiliar work and composer).

As a creative - as opposed to recreative persona, Rannali began his concert with his own Theme and Variations "The Garden of Ghosts" and later prefaced the Ginastera triptych with his Three Aphorismes . His music is beautifully crafted and a little hard to pigeonhole: I detected stylistic smatterings of late Enescu (of his Romanian period), traces of Bartók´s Night Music (the beginning of the Second Violin/Piano Sonata and the central movement of the 1926 Piano Sonata), along with allusions to Debussy and Scriabin. I am sure that we will have greater opportunity to come to terms with this potently gifted musician´s handiwork: He is, without a doubt, destined to become an influental denizen in the Music World. I am pleased to make Mika Rannali´s acquaintance...

Harris Goldsmith, New York Concert Review (December 1999)
Harris Goldsmith is a pianist and has written for many major publications including The York Post, Musical America, Hi-Fidelity, Opus and Strad

The soloist, Mika Rännäli, respected the character of the work (Choral Fantasy by Beethoven) with his well-proportioned playing, which was based on the right amount of contrasts. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the conductor Okko Kamu were also at their best in the Fantasy .

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland (November 2004)

The First Piano Concerto by Shostakovitch seems to fit Mika Rännäli exceptionally well. The work in many places requires a circus-like atmosphere and Rännäli's personality is known to possess at least a hint of those qualities. This time the emotional climax was in the Second Movement where Rännäli created the Slavic longing in the best Rachmaninoff style. The First Movement concentrated more on elegance and lyricism than the slapstick aesthetics of the silent movie era. The speed race was saved for the finale.

Kaleva, Finland (March 2004)

Mika Rännäli was an excellent soloist in the First Piano Concerto by Franz Liszt. His sound deepened as the work progressed and he also produced impressive effects from his instrument. Rännäli was also capable of enjoying the calmer moods pleasurably.

The collaboration between Mika Rännäli and conductor Tibor Boganyi worked admirably well, balance and the rhythmic elements were in perfect harmony and the famous triangle solo was brilliant.

Savon Sanomat, Finland (January 2004)



The program of Mika Rännäli's recital was a versatile combination ranging from Mozart to Madetoja, from Liszt to Ginastera without forgetting the Russians, Scriabin and Rachmaninoff. The Sonata in C minor, KV 457 by Mozart started the recital persuasively. The rhythmic energy and almost Beethovenian strength carried through to the audience. The Ballade No. 2 in B minor by Liszt was impressive in its virtuosity and changing moods. The first half ended with two pieces by Rachmaninoff: a delicate Prelude in G-sharp minor, Op. 32, No. 12 and an Etude-Tableau, Op. 33,   No. 9 full of captivating wildness.

Leevi Madetoja´s music reveals the Finnish soul with its clarity and melancholic characteristics and on the other hand with its crisp folkloric elements. All in all there is something very touching in this music, which Rännäli's interpretation achieved to the fullest in the piano suite "Garden of Death", Op. 41.

We heard three études by Scriabin. The earliest in C-sharp minor, Op. 2, No. 1 i s very close in style to Chopin. Étude in E major, Op. 8, No. 5 and in G-sharp minor, Op. 8, No. 9 are already closer to the fullbodied Scriabin style. The colorful ferocity as well as tumultuousness was delightful.

Danzas Argentinas by Ginastera was an exciting end to the concert. Joyful rhythms and the successful characterization of the dances seemed to fit Rännäli perfectly. Mika Rännäli's virtuosity as well as his musical and determined approach made a huge impression throughout the concert. For an encore he played Souvenir by Sibelius - this concert was also part of the concert series "Music in Sibelius' Birthplace".

Hämeen Sanomat, Finland (March 2004)



On Saturday and Sunday, pianist Mika Rännäli played the complete piano works by Leevi Madetoja. The concerts were recorded and the material will be produced as a live recording by Alba Records. Once again, an important part of the history of Finnish piano music will be documented on CD.

The piano works by Madetoja are intimate and delicate and their pianistic problems are caused more often than not by discomfort due to the clumsy way of writing for piano rather than virtuosity in itself. In making the choice to play Madetoja the pianist needs to have great love and respect for Madetoja's music, because his miniatures are not filled with extroverted virtuosity and they are clearly much harder to play than they sound.

All in all, Madetoja's piano works are more even in terms of quality compared to Sibelius' piano works, which include every kind of music. As a matter of fact, Rännäli is exactly the right person to record Madetoja, since he seems to have a lot of ideas about the philosophical and metaphysical aspects of the music. When this is combined with the virtuosic control over the instrument, the audience can expect something memorable.

On Saturday these expectations were transformed into music when the first concert of the live recording took place in the Tulindberg Hall.

Mika Rännäli's playing revealed his meticulous preparation and deep understanding from the first note to the last. When needed, his music making also has a provocative side, which prevents the anemic aspects that sometimes lurk in Madetoja's music from taking over.

In particular, Miniatures for Piano, Op. 21 and Small Pieces for Piano , Op. 31, which have been played to exhaustion among Finnish piano students, were awakened into their true brilliance in the hands of the virtuoso. For example, Nocturne, Op. 21,   No. 3 proved to be almost an elegy in the Rachmaninoff style, both in musical and pianistic parameters.

In Six Piano Pieces, Op. 12 , Rännäli's sound was admirable and for once one could enjoy the delicate musical ideas to the fullest.

The most important piano work by Madetoja is the Piano Suite " Garden of Death", Op. 41 . Rännäli's vision of the work was touching, and hats off to him especially in the well-constructed first movement, which is extremely hard to accomplish with the piano.

Kaleva, Finland (May 2004)



Thursday's concert offered a lesson in the basics of Russian music: great emotions, speed, humor and folkloric melodies. The well-known First Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky was interpreted by a rising star, pianist Mika Rännäli and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasili Sinaiski.

Mika Rännäli is a lyrical poet who doesn't shout his emotions with the piano. Instead, he delicately reveals his intelligent musical ideas to the listener. He molded the rhythms in the first movement of the concerto freely and with rubato, whereas the second and third movements were a celebration of clear sound and lively rhythms.

Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Finland (September, 2003)

Mika Rännäli`s recital can be described in one word -- enjoyable. Both the interpretations and the programming were magnificent. I liked Rännäli`s interpretation of Englund`s Introduzione e Toccata the most. As a composition, it is extremely interesting and, with Rännäli's boisterous, witty and manic unfolding of the work, it was a great joy. Rännäli lived the music to the full. I had the impression that both the composer and the interpreter possess more than a hint of satiric humor. Mika Rännäli interpreted Scriabin's expressionism in a tumultuously quite different way from Englund´s classicism. His interpretation had just the powerful intensity that the work requires. He also presented another kind of Scriabin as his encore, a beautifully spiritual prelude. Claude Debussy´s four preludes and L´Isle joyeuse demonstrated that, in addition to his breath-taking rhythmic fireworks, Rännäli can fully master and command the sound itself. These preludes offer a variety of different moods and Rännäli´s skill and playfulness with the tone colours made a strong impression on his audience. All in all, Mika Rännäli is a charismatic pianist who truly knows how to connect to the listener!


Iisalmen Sanomat, Finland (July 2000)

In the Ravel Piano Concerto young Mika Rännäli revealed his claws, and they were sharp. He structured the work with exceptional accuracy, showing off his bravura skills securely and elegantly and also revealing the jazz-like and down-to-earth qualities of the music.

Karjalainen, Finland (September 2000)

The best thing about the concerto (Ravel) was Mika Rännäli`s vigorous interpretation. His rapid and precise fingerwork proved most enjoyable, especially in the finale.

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland (September 2000)


Dancing Piano Virtuoso

Mika Rännäli's Mozart Playing has Fluent Elegance.

In music circles, Mika Rännäli is known as a multifaceted talent. His slender elegance and grand manner go beyond that of other young pianists. His playing has acquired even more lightness and dancing suppleness than before -- rich in colour, with fluent virtuosity and sparkling rhythm.

The destiny-filled gloom and tempestuous roar of the concerto's first movement were left behind like a distant memory, their agonising shadows unable to reach either the graceful Romanze or the playful finale.

The cadenzas, which cleverly showcased his enormous talent, struck me as extraordinary. I discovered later that they had been written by Mr. Rännäli himself.

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland (April 2000)


Luminous Mozart by a Promising Pianist

Mika Rännäli was the soloist in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor , and he played it with excellent balance and full of Viennese classical linearity.

Rännäli stands out from other equally technically accomplished pianists by virtue of his enormously clear sense of form and his understanding of the underlying harmonic logic. In his hands, Mozart did not become a static "little-girlish" kind of music. Instead it was structured according to the dramaturgical laws of tonality and moulded into an extended well-balanced line. The music spoke and communicated because every phrase was part of a larger entity.

Mr.Rännäli's Mozart playing also awoke interest with its surface brilliance. He generated a sound full of brightness, sensitivity and refinement. I especially enjoyed the lyrical main theme of the slow movement which attained a true Mozartian childlike innocence and simplicity. This was Rännäli's first public performance of the concerto and it proved his enormous talent.

Aamulehti, Finland (April 2000)


Luminous Atmospheres

I have never heard the (Scriabin) concerto performed in this way. Rännäli was an individualist -- heroic, gentlehanded -- conveying his spirit, and the Scriabin spirit, with both delicacy and (paradoxically) strength. The atmosphere of the work was sentimental, unassuming, with lightness and clarity, all of which is only possible with the technique of a true pianist.

Kaleva, Finland (January 2000)


Dramatic Glimpses

Rännäli interpreted the Haydn Sonata in his own strongly individual way -- especially the Adagio movement which was almost impressionistically painted. I admired his fingerwork and his pliant and precise touch in the fast movements. An unfailingly clear and bright Haydn.

Rännäli showed a contrasting side of his interpretive powers in the Etude-Tableau, Op. 33, No. 9 by Rachmaninov. The etude was volcanic and rich with strong emotions. This dark side of Slav Romanticism seems to fit Rännäli perfectly and the Scriabin Etudes were also full of whirling emotions. In the two Opera Fantasies by Liszt, especially with the Verdi-Liszt Rigoletto , Rännäli created a very skillful illusion of the orchestra.

Mr. Rännäli is both very gifted and full of essential conviction.

Kaleva, Finland (August 1998)


Mika RAnnAli, an Artist of the Highest Level

Mika Rännäli plays Bach lyrically and quietly. With delicate use of the pedal he blends the Preludes and Fugues of The Well Tempered Clavier into the church's own natural acoustics. Even the fugues seem to transform into impressionistic tone colours. A perfect atmosphere for a calm evening.

In the Sonatine by Joonas Kokkonen Mr. Rännäli produces a majestically beautiful tonal structure. The work's daunting dissonance is, with such an interpretation, a pleasure to hear.

Mr.Rännäli gives a most amazing interpretation of the Prelude and Nocturne for the left hand Op.9 by Scriabin. With eyes closed, I could have sworn that the pianist was using (at least) two hands. Mr. Rännäli played the most difficult passages with ease.

After the intermission, the drowsy calm is broken. The Chopin B minor Etude (Op. 25, No. 10) pours out its infernal octaves with maximum power and Rännäli truly triumphs in the fff passages.

Iisalmen Sanomat, Finland (July 1997)


The Enchantment of Gothóni Maintained

The same ecstatic mood was maintained even without Ralf Gothóni. Emma Vähälä, Sennu Laine and especially the young master of the piano Mika Rännäli caught a most genuine Russian nostalgia in the Piano Trio No.1 'Elégiaque' by Rachmaninoff.

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland (March 1996)


Successful Concert with Powerful Strings

Mika Rännäli came across as a phenomenal interpreter of the solo part (of the Third Piano Concerto of Aarre Merikanto) and truly no less admirable in his encore, which was Merikanto's 'Meditation'. Ladies and gentlemen, a great success!

Göteborgs Post, Sweden (December 1993)


Contrasts from Scandinavia

The soloist in the piano concerto was Mika Rännäli, who invested the dynamic atonal first movement with a boisterous energy in complete contrast to the serenity and lyrical beauty of the middle section.

Birmingham Post, England (November 1993)

Academic Sweet Melodies

It was nice to hear this seldom played piece (Aarre Merikanto's Third Piano Concerto ) and when given so overwhelmingly a musical and emotional interpretation as on this occasion by the young and promising pianist Mika Rännäli, it is definitely worth offering to audiences abroad.

Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland (November 1993)


Celebrated guests

The pièce de résistance was the Third Piano Concerto of Aarre Merikanto. Mika Rännäli allured a variable touch from the piano and followed the structure of the concerto perfectly, i.e. the contrast between powerful tone blocks and pastel-shaded legato playing. He skillfully captured the onward progression of the piece and at the same time succeeded in fully integrating his playing with the orchestra.

Västra Nyland, Finland (April 1993)



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