Saraste was trained as a violinist. He later studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy with Jorma Panula in the same class as Esa-Pekka Salonen and Osmo Vänskä. Before becoming a conductor, Saraste was co-principal second violinist and later an associate to Leif Segerstam, with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO).
In 1983, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Saraste co-founded the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, which specialises in performances of contemporary music. In 2000, Saraste also founded the Ekenäs Summer Concerts-Festival with the Finnish Chamber Orchestra, and he is currently the artistic advisor to both Festival and Orchestra. Saraste has directed the Finnish Chamber orchestra on several tours, including tours in the United States and China.
In 1987, Saraste became the chief conductor of the RSO, and held the position until 2001. In 1987, he also became the principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and remained with the orchestra until 1991. Saraste now holds the title of Conductor Laureate of the RSO. He has twice recorded the complete symphonies of Jean Sibelius with the RSO.
Saraste became Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1994. The later years of his tenure were marked by strife over the orchestra's financial difficulties, several musicians' strikes, and his unsuccessful efforts to improve the acoustics at Roy Thomson Hall. During the 1999 labour dispute, Saraste had offered to serve as mediator in the situation. Saraste stepped down from his Toronto post in 2001, and has since returned to Toronto for several guest appearances.
From 2002 to 2005, Saraste served as the principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In August 2006, he became Music Director of the Oslo Philharmonic, with an initial contract of 5 years. In June 2009, his Oslo contract was extended through the 2012-2013 season. He is scheduled to conclude his Oslo tenure after the 2012-2013 season. In December 2006, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Saraste as its artistic advisor from 2008 through 2011, and Artistic Director of the Lahti Sibelius Festival in 2008. In November 2008, the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne announced the appointment of Saraste as its next principal conductor, effective with the 2010-2011 season. In December 2017, the orchestra announced that Saraste is to stand down from the post at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
Saraste was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Music in 2000. He has received a Doctor honoris causa from York University (Toronto), and he is a Sibelius Medalist. Other honours also include the Sibelius Prize, awarded in Norway.
- Warren, Richard, It Begins With The Oboe. University of Toronto Press (Toronto, 2002; ISBN 9780802035882), pp. 209-211.
- Erik Bjørnskau (22 June 2009). "Saraste fornyer i Filharmonien". Aftenposten. Archived from the original on 23 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-06.
- "Vasily Petrenko Oslo-Filharmoniens neste sjefsdirigent" (Press release). Oslo Philharmonic. 18 February 2011. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-20.
- "Saraste wird neuer Dirigent". Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. 16 November 2008. Archived from the original on 3 August 2012. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
- ""Man soll aufhören, wenn es am schönsten ist"" (Press release). WDR. 1 December 2017. Retrieved 2017-12-11.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jukka-Pekka Saraste.|
- Jukka-Pekka Saraste – Official Website
- KS am Gasteig Management agency biography of Saraste
- WDR German-language biography of Saraste
| Principal Conductor, Scottish Chamber Orchestra
| Principal Conductor, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
| Principal Conductor, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne