Five Minutes with…Iiro Rantala

Five Minutes with…Iiro Rantala

Zany, unconventional and uncompromising, pianist Iiro Rantala is one of the most internationally visible Finnish musicians. Possessing unsurpassed keyboard technique and flaring showmanship, Rantala crosses music genres and styles with flair, excitement and an adventurous spirit.

We caught up with him ahead of his tour to Australia in October to talk about what influences his music and what audiences can expect from his show at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

What is your earliest memory of music?

At the age of seven (1977) – my parents joined me in a famous boys choir in Finland – Cantores Minores – (still going) and I learned a lot of great Bach choral music and complex compositions. What's more we performed regularly and even went to the US where we sung in front of president Ronald Reagan. But even before Cantores Minores I was listening a lot to the radio and playing my Mum's vinyls. Tchaikovsky piano concerto no 1, b-minor was in heavy use.

How does Finnish/ Scandinavian culture influence your music?

Well, certainly Finnish music, classical (e.g. Sibelius, whose 150th birthday is in 2015) and also a great Finnish tango composer (Toivo Karki, whose 100th birthday is in 2015). You can leave Finland but Finland never leaves You. I will always have a little bit of the Nordic sadness in my piano sound. Can't help it. As we say in Finland: "Life is short and then You die". All this is in my music. Pessimists never disappoint. But I also have a lot a humour in my playing. People generally don't get suicidal after hearing me. Except in Finland where my audience is getting smaller.

What are some of your favourite jazz recordings or pieces of music?

Piece of music: Overture from Candide by Leonard Bernstein.

Favourite Jazz recording: My Spanish Heart, Chick Corea

Where does your creative inspiration come from?

I don't quite know really. There are no artists in my whole family. But I've always been nuts about music. Maybe we had a musical milkman, in our Helsinki neighbourhood...

What’s the best piece of advise you’ve ever been given?

Never yell at your audience. It's not their fault, if you suck.

Can you tell us a little bit about what audiences can expect from your show in Melbourne?

They will get a nice dose of the Scandinavian melancholy - highlights from my recent ACT solo (Lost Heroes) recordings, trio and some past albums as well as a bunch of re-arranged John Lennon songs (his 75th birthday is Oct 2015) and also some Beatles tunes, like you have never heard them.

An Evening with Iiro Rantala plays Melbourne Recital Centre on Wednesday 28 October 2015 at 7:30pm. Presented by Henk van Leeuwen  
Book tickets here

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