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An extremely sensitive player with a seemingly flawless command of his instrument, Kriikku is undoubtedly one of the world's foremost clarinetists. His recordings of the concertos of Carl Maria von Weber and Bernhard Crusell have received worldwide acclaim (the Weber CD was voted "best ever" recording by Classic CD and BBC Music Magazine). In 2006, his recording of Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto (2002) won both BBC Music Magazine's award and the Gramophone Award.
Concentrating on contemporary music, Kriikku is Scandinavia's leading interpreter of works for the clarinet by composers such as Magnus Lindberg, Vinko Globokar, Kaija Saariaho, Jukka Tiensuu, Jouni Kaipainen, Kimmo Hakola, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Pawel Szymanski, Eero Hämeenniemi, Olli Koskelin and Usko Meriläinen. He has performed Tiensuu's clarinet concerto PURO over 30 times.
Kari Kriikku is a founding member of the Avanti! chamber orchestra and has served as the ensemble's artistic director since 1998.
He was the 2009 winner of the Nordic Council Music Prize: the prize committee wrote, “Kari Kriikku is an extraordinary virtuoso on his instrument the clarinet. His performance is characterised by flexibility and a positive musician’s joy - he is a musician in the best sense of the word.” In late 2015, he toured with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under guest-conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
- "Kari Kriikku wins the Nordic Council Music Prize 2009". norden. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2009-08-08.[dead link]
- Sell, David (5 November 2015). "Concert Review: Bold Worlds, NZSO". The Press. Retrieved 5 November 2015.