Chamber Music under the Northern Lights


Introducing the llmari Hannikainen Piano Chamber Music Competition


The most recent addition to the Finnish WFIMC-family is the Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Chamber Music Competition. This unique event culminates in an orchestra finale for ensembles, and takes place outside of the Helsinki metropolitan area in the City of Jyväskylä. This small university town at 62 degrees north and 570 km from the Polar Circle is surrounded by natural beauty, and occupies a significant place in the culture and civilization of Finland.

The Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Chamber Music Competition, held every three years around the beginning of March, is fourth in the WFIMC roster of renowned international Finnish music competitions. The Mirjam Helin Singing Competition, the Mai Lind Piano Competition, and the Jean Sibelius Violin Competition all take place in Helsinki. Jyväskylä is in the middle of the beautiful lake district, and everything – including nature – is within a short walking distance. A lively student town with a university and numerous schools and colleges, Jyväskylä is best known for the architecture of Alvar Aalto. Some of the founders of the Jyväskylä Festival, the longest surviving cultural festival in the Nordic Countries, were students of Ilmari Hannikainen. Established in 1956 the event was heavily concentrated on chamber music, showing his enduring influence.



Ilmari Hannikainen, pianist, composer and pedagogue. ©Finnish Heritage Agency

Duo Sediuk&Kopeliuk, Jyväskylä Sinfonia and Jan Söderblom. ©Anneli Rahn

The cockpit of the Gradia mul􏰀cam team, Hannikainen hall online. © Aatu Karjanmaa

Ilmari Hannikainen (1892-1955) was born in Jyväskylä. The town was culturally vibrant already at the time of his birth. The establishment of the first Finnish language secondary school and the Teacher Seminary in the 1860’s turned Jyväskylä into the educational hub of Finland. This brought Ilmari’s parents to Jyväskylä, and the family home became a center for chamber music. The influence of the four talented Hannikainen brothers is still felt in the music scene of the country. Ilmari became the first Finnish pianist and chamber musician with an international career. His many lyrical compositions are still part of the repertoire of pianists around the world At the founding of the Sibelius Academy he became the first piano professor creating a far reaching legacy as pedagogue.

When the Foundation for Music Promotion in Central Finland wanted to renew its decades long competition format, Ilmari Hannikainen’s legacy naturally pointed to piano chamber music. The solo piano event since the 1970’s was turned into an international competition for pianists and their ensembles with finales played together with Jyväskylä Sinfonia. In spite of the pandemic and war in Europe, the revamped version turned out surprisingly popular. Young musicians around the world found their way to Central Finland at the height of winter, with freezing temperatures, lots of snow and spectacular northern lights. Piano duos, violin-piano duos, and violin-cello-piano trios played themselves into the hearts of the town’s audiences as well as viewers over the internet.

”The next competition in 2026 will have an even wider reach, thanks to our membership in the WFIMC. And best of all, friends of chamber music in all corners of the world will be able to watch the entire event on live stream. ”Anneli Rahn, Chair, Foundation for Music Promotion in Central Finland

Terhi Dostal plays Ilmari Hannikainen (
Jyväskylä Sinfonia (
Visit Jyväskylä region (
Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Chamber Music Competition 2023 Finale Concerts:


©WFIMC/ Found. for Music Promotion in Central Finland 2023

Cover image: Northern Lights. ©Ulla Keituri