Leif Segerstam

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Leif Segerstam

Leif Segerstam (born 2 March 1944 in Vaasa) is a Finnish conductor and composer.

He studied violin, piano and conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and conducting at the Juilliard School in New York with Jean Morel.[1]

Segerstam served as chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra from 1995 to 2007, and now holds the title of Chief Conductor Emeritus with the orchestra. He has held positions with numerous other orchestras, including the Danish National Radio Symphony and the Austrian Radio Symphony, and has guest-conducted many orchestras throughout the world including the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony and the Brazilian OSESP - the Symphony Orchestra of the State of São Paulo. He is also the professor of conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.[2] His students include Susanna Mälkki, Mikk Murdvee, Sasha Mäkilä and Markku Laakso.[3]


He is widely known through his recorded discography, which includes the complete symphonies of Sibelius, Nielsen, and Mahler, as well as many works by contemporary composers such as the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara and the American composers John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse.[2]


As a composer, he is known especially for his numerous symphonies (285 as of 2014).[4] Of these, over a hundred have been performed.

He is equally known for his series of "Orchestral Diary Sheets", many of which are intended to be performed without a conductor. He developed a personal approach to aleatory composition through a style called "free pulsation" in which musical events interact flexibly in time.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Segerstam's father was the late Selim Segerstam, who made several song books.[6]

He was married to the violinist Hannele Segerstam (concertmaster of the Finnish RSO). They have two children, Jan and Pia; Pia is a professional cellist.

After Segerstam's divorce from Hannele Segerstam, he married the Helsinki Philharmonic harpist Minnaleena Segerstam.[7] They have three children. In 2009 it was announced that their marriage would end.[citation needed]


  • 285 Symphonies (as of 2014)
  • 30 String quartets
  • 13 Violin concertos
  • 8 Cello concertos
  • 4 Viola concertos
  • 4 Piano concertos


In 1999, he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for his work as a "tireless champion of Scandinavian Music."


Cultural offices
Preceded by
Milan Horvat
Principal Conductor, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Lothar Zagrosek
Preceded by
Okko Kamu
Principal Conductor, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Preceded by
Lamberto Gardelli
Principal Conductor, Danish National Symphony Orchestra
Succeeded by
Ulf Schirmer
Preceded by
Sergiu Comissiona
Principal Conductor, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Succeeded by
John Storgårds
Preceded by
Eri Klas
Professor of conducting, Sibelius Academy
Succeeded by