Lintu studied piano and cello at the Turku Conservatory and at the Sibelius Academy. He also studied conducting with Atso Almila, and later with Jorma Panula and Eri Klas. He took part in conducting master classes with Ilya Musin. Lintu won the Nordic Conducting Competition in 1994 in Bergen. He graduated from the Sibelius Academy in 1996 with honours. Lintu took up a part-time appointment of professor of conducting at the Sibelius Academy in September 2014.
From 1998 to 2001, Lintu was chief conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2005, he served as the artistic director for the Summer Sounds Festival of the Finnish contemporary music ensemble Avanti!. Lintu was chief conductor of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra from 2009 to 2013. In December 2010, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Lintu as its eighth chief conductor, effective 1 August 2013, with an initial contract of three seasons. He held the title of principal guest conductor with the orchestra for the 2012–2013 season. In April 2016, the FRSO announced the extension of Lintu's contract as chief conductor through 2021. Lintu stood down as chief conductor of the orchestra at the close of the 2020–2021 season. In May 2019, Finnish National Opera and Ballet announced the appointment of Lintu as its next chief conductor, with a contract effective from 1 January 2022 to 30 June 2026.
Outside of Finland, Lintu was chief conductor and artistic director of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2005. Lintu first conducted Ireland's RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in January 2009. On the basis of that appearance, he was named principal guest conductor of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, effective with the 2010-2011 season. He held this RTÉ post through May 2013.
- "Hannu Lintu Sibelius-Akatemiaan vierailevaksi professoriksi" (Press release). Sibelius Academy. 8 September 2014. Retrieved 8 September 2014.
- "Santtu-Matias Rouvali appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director from 2013" (Press release). Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. 11 September 2012. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- "Hannu Lintu to be FRSO's Chief Conductor" (press release). Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, 14 December 2010.
- "Hannu Lintu to continue as FRSO Chief Conductor until 2021" (Press release). Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- "Hannu Lintu to leave the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2021" (Press release). Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. 12 April 2019. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- "Hannu Lintu appointed as Chief Conductor of the Finnish National Opera and Ballet" (Press release). Finnish National Opera and Ballet. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
- Michael Dervan (25 November 2010). "'Most of the orchestras in the world can play without a conductor'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 January 2011.
- Michael Dervan (8 January 2014). "Room at the top: another departure from RTÉ's performing groups". The Irish Times. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- J.S. Marcus (27 January 2016). "A Finnish Couple's Private Symphony Space". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Tim Ashley (15 November 2012). "Reger: Violin Concerto/Chaconne for Solo Violin – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
- Erica Jeal (21 July 2016). "Melartin: Traumgesicht, etc CD review – dreamy and evocative tone poems". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 November 2016.
- Erica Jeal (2 November 2017). "Sibelius: Tapiola, En Saga, 8 Songs CD review – freshness and glitter with Anne Sofie von Otter". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2019.