Teppo Koivisto


Year of birth: 1961

Home town: Helsinki

1. When did you start playing piano?

I have been told that I played recognizable melodies by ear with some kind of accompaniment when I was two to three years old. So, I have played the piano almost all my life, but I started serious work with the instrument at the age of 15, after Liisa Pohjola’s inspirational master class.

2. What made you choose piano as your instrument? Does someone else in your family play an instrument?

We had a piano at home and my father played and taught beginners. The piano was an important piece of furniture in our household, thus it attracted me. We had a violin, too, but I wasn’t interested in it. My father is a skilled pianist without any formal training. One of my grandfathers played the violin and the other played the harmonium. They were both self-taught folk musicians, but they could also read music. My younger sister is a good pianist, but she chose not to play professionally.   

3. What does playing piano mean to you?

The piano has been central to my life, except for a couple of years when I was a rebellious teenager. Piano music has given me a rich and interesting – although not always easy – life. The older I get, the more it fascinates me.

4. What is the most important piece of music to you?

There have been so many, depending on the different stages of my life. At the moment, I would say the Fifth Piano Concerto by Beethoven.

5. What is your most memorable master class lesson? Why?

Absolutely a lesson with György Sebök, at the Sibelius Academy in the year 1983. I played the Chopin Scherzo in B flat minor in a way that was not at all flattering to the piece, the composer or the performer. Everyone from the Sibelius Academy was listening, and that lesson was perhaps the most difficult during my whole life. Sebök had his own approach. Sometimes it worked wonders, sometimes not. He did not give clear answers, but wanted each student to find his or her own solutions. Students can sometimes feel intimidated by great teachers, especially in front of an audience. No one likes it. However, the lesson was a wake-up call, and it made me ruthlessly examine myself for a couple of weeks. That was new start in my relationship with piano playing. Even now, I categorize times in my life as being either before or after meeting Sebök. I think most of us have had these experiences and they are often necessary for growth and improvement.

6. What is your most memorable performance? Why?

Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto with Jukka-Pekka Saraste in the finals of the national Maj Lind Competition, 1982. It is one of the few performances during which I felt that I was playing on stage as well as I possibly could. 

7. Why did you find it important to found the Youth Piano Academy?

Finland is a small nation with top talents spread all over it. It is quite clear that the most talented youngsters must be found and trained as well as possible and as early as possible, if we want them to reach the high international standards of piano playing. Other important aspects are the communality and peer learning offered by the Youth Piano Academy. 

8. What advice would you give for the students of the Youth Piano Academy or for the young pianists in general?

Chopin gave his students a wonderful pieca of advice: ”Patience is the best teacher”.