The award-winning Finnish conductor on being a natural explorer and why enthusiasm is contagious

Financial Times

Hester Lacey

1 What is your earliest memory?
Images from where I grew up, a lullaby, being on my father’s lap, my grandmothers.

2 Who was or still is your mentor?
When I was younger, I didn’t have anyone like that. I wish I had. The mentor-like relationships and trust emerged later in life. I have wonderful colleagues. And friendships that have become almost like philosophical partnerships. And there are people I look up to. All of those are my mentor pools, and I’m very grateful.

3 How fit are you?
Relatively fit, I guess, compared with people of my age, but I would love to be very sportif, and I’m not.

4 Tell me about an animal you have loved.
There were allergies in my family, so I haven’t known an animal well. I’m already loving the little doggie I am going to get one day, when my lifestyle permits.

5 Risk or caution, which has defined your life more?
Risk, definitely. I’m quite principled, idealistic. If I believe strongly in something, I don’t calculate whether it’s wise nor not. All the crossroads in my life have been risk-taking. I’m glad of it. I’m an explorer.

6 What trait do you find most irritating in others?
Rudeness. It’s so not necessary.

7 What trait do you find most irritating in yourself?
I’m very quick in many ways and, sometimes, it can flip into impatience. Things take their time, people take their time, change takes its time.

8 What drives you on?
It’s quite instinctive. There are things that speak to me directly, like music, obviously. Compositions, certain kinds of music making, singers, musicians, composers and their ideas. There is also an element of recognition. If you go into a forest, the seashore, what you observe is nourishing and triggering. It’s like a pull. Enthusiasm is contagious. I gravitate to places where that enthusiasm is accepted and generated, and I’m extremely privileged to be working in music. It’s the greatest thing that exists. If I can spread that joy, it drives me in a way where I become irrelevant.

9 Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes, I think so. I believe in past, present and future. I find the thought that all time exists now, that time is a concept, very beautiful. I’m fascinated by this idea and open to it.

10 Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?
It is puzzling that there is so much suffering. It’s important that we don’t forget that it exists. Ignorance, not wanting to hear about it, is puzzling: people who don’t care. It’s our duty as human beings to be aware and to help, near or far.

11 Name your favourite river.
I love swimming. As a child, I spent most of my summers in and around water. In New York, I walked along the Hudson; these huge water streams are fascinating. But I don’t know any particular river personally, so to speak. The Danube, because there is so much music along it. Or the Rhine, because of Schumann’s symphony: maybe the river becomes more metaphysical, more symbolic?

12 What would you have done differently?
Maybe I’m too young to answer that. I need a few more decades.

Financial Times