Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch is a Finnish violist and conductor. When she was 9, her school in Kajaani bought 20 violins and set the whole of the music class playing. By the end of the autumn all but five pupils had given up, and after Christmas the only remaining one was Sirkka-Liisa, who soon began taking lessons with Olli Kuusoja. A giant of a man who ran a florist’s shop and kept sheep, he tenderly herded his pupil towards the Junior Sibelius Academy. By the time she left school, Sirkka-Liisa had moved to Helsinki and from then onwards became an inveterate chamber musician thanks to Battalia, Avanti!, Sixth Floor Orchestra, Yoshiko Arai, Paavo Pohjola, Anssi Mattila and various festivals.
Though Sirkka-Liisa has had many memorable teachers, her primary taskmaster has always been work. While studying in the Netherlands, she gained access to the highest early music elite in the orchestras of Frans Brüggen, Philippe Herreweghe and others. Her longest spell, lasting over ten years, was as leader of the Collegium Vocale Gent. She never stops learning, because every concert, and especially the worst and most difficult, teaches the experienced musician something.
Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch is an unusually versatile violinist. Though she plays music of every era, the emphasis in her repertoire is on the 17th to 19th centuries. She also plays the viola and viola d’amore and often leads the orchestra or conducts from the front desk. She is nowadays in great demand as a leader of countless renowned early music ensembles and orchestras, performing music of the Baroque and symphonies of the age of Mozart and Schubert. Her solo repertoire includes such works as the 16 Mystery Sonatas by Biber, J.S. Bach’s Solo Sonatas and Partitas, and solo violin works of the 16th and 17th centuries. Orchestras she has worked with include: Collegium Vocale Gent, La Chapelle Royale, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs Elysées, Nederlandse Bachvereniging, Concerto Copenhagen, Orchestra of the 18th Century, European Union Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Cracoviensis, Stavanger Symfoniorkester, Royal Danish Chamber Orchestra; Orchestras in Finland: Avanti!, Sixth Floor Orchestra, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Oulu Sinfonia.
Professor of chamber music at Stavanger University, Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch has also been a Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Bremen Institute of Arts and teaches at the Sibelius Academy. She lives with her Polish husband and son Wilhelm in Cracow but they have a second home by a lake in Northern Finland. And that, she says, is where her heart lives.