Mälkki began to learn the violin, piano, and cello in her youth, and eventually focused her studies on the cello. She continued her cello studies with Hannu Kiiski, and later studied conducting with Jorma Panula, as well as Eri Klas and Leif Segerstam, at the Sibelius Academy. She also studied at London's Royal Academy of Music. She participated in a Sibelius Academy Conductor's Workshop at Carnegie Hall in 1998, under the supervision of Panula and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
In 1994, Mälkki won the 1st prize in the Turku National Cello Competition. From 1995 to 1998, she was principal cellist in the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. She left her Gothenburg position to devote herself to conducting. From 2002 to 2005, she was artistic leader of the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra.
Her debut with the Ensemble InterContemporain (EIC) was in August 2004, in a program of Harrison Birtwistle at the Lucerne Festival. She became the EIC's Music Director in 2006, the first woman to hold the post, and served as the EIC's music director until 2013. She continues to maintain a residence in Paris.
Mälkki is known as a specialist in contemporary music. Her work in contemporary music includes several world premieres and opera productions, such as conducting the Finnish premiere of Thomas Adès' Powder Her Face in 1999, which led to Adès inviting Mälkki to be his assistant for further performances of this opera in the UK, at the Almeida Theatre, where, as she noted, "I ended up conducting some of the performances". Her conducting debut at the BBC Proms was in July 2007, leading the London Sinfonietta. She conducted the world premiere of Luca Francesconi's opera "Quartett" at La Scala in Milan in 2011, becoming the first woman ever to conduct an opera production in the history of the house.
Outside of Europe, Mälkki made her New Zealand conducting debut in November 2006 with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Her North American conducting debut was in February 2007 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. She first guest-conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2010. In April 2016, the orchestra announced her appointment as its next principal guest conductor, effective with the 2017-2018 season, with an initial contract of 3 years. Mälkki is the first female conductor to be named to the principal guest conductorship of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In December 2016, she made her Metropolitan Opera conducting debut in the company's first-ever production of L'Amour de loin of Kaija Saariaho, the fourth female conductor to lead a production at the Metropolitan Opera, and the first female conductor to be featured in the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series.
In May 2013, she was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, with an initial contract of 3 years, effective July 2013. In September 2014, she was named the next Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, effective autumn 2016, with an initial contract of 3 years. She is the first female conductor to be named to this post. In October 2017, the Helsinki Philharmonic announced the extension of her contract as chief conductor through 2021. In June 2019, the orchestra announced a further extension of her contract as chief conductor through 2023, with an option for a further 2-year extension past 2023.
Mälkki recorded two works of Stuart MacRae for the NMC label, Two Scenes from the Death of Count Ugolino and Motus. With the EIC, she has conducted recordings of music by Bruno Mantovani, Luca Francesconi, Philippe Manoury, Michael Jarrell, Pierre Jodlowski, and Yann Robin, all for the Kairos label.
- Zachary Woolfe (15 May 2015). "Susanna Malkki's Wide Appeal on Both Sides of the Atlantic". New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- Charlotte Higgins (22 March 2001). "In a class of her own". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- Andrew Clark, "Idealist with a determined streak", Financial Times, 1 March 2005.
- Allan Kozinn (27 February 1998). "Critic's Notebook: Gestures, Nods and Eyebrows to Inspire Conductors". New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- Allan Kozinn (11 June 2005). "Arts, Briefly": "On the Conductorial Front". New York Times. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- "Matthias Pintscher est nommé Directeur musical de l'Ensemble intercontemporain"/"Matthias Pintscher appointed Music Director of the Ensemble intercontemporain" (Press Release). Ensemble InterContemporain, 22 June 2012.
- Guy Dammann (6 February 2005). "Interview: Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki". Financial Times. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Andrew Clements (27 March 2001). "BCMG/Malkki (CBSO Centre, Birmingham)". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- Alfred Hickling (1 February 2002). "Gribbin premiere (All Saints Church, Newcastle)". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- Rian Evans (8 March 2005). "BCMG/Malkki (CBSO Centre, Birmingham)". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
- Andrew Clements (2 August 2007). "London Sinfonietta/Malkki (review of Prom 25, 2007)". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
- Ivan Hewett (1 August 2007). "BBC Proms review: Epic density and scope". Telegraph. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
- Dart, William (8 November 2006). "Instinctive desire to bring out beauty". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- Garth Wilshere, Review of NZSO, conductor Susanna Mälkki, violin soloist Vadim Repin, Michael Fowler Centre Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, Capital Times, 8 November 2006.
- Sarah Bryan Miller, "Orchestra sails through a nautical theme"], St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 February 2007.
- "The Los Angeles Philharmonic Association Appoints Susanna Mälkki As Principal Guest Conductor" (Press release). Los Angeles Philharmonic. 6 April 2016. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
- Anthony Tommasini (2 December 2016). "Review: A Newly Relevant L'Amour de Loin' at the Met". New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- Anthony Tommasini (15 September 2016). "With Women in Command, the Met Opera Addresses a Gender Gap". New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
- "Susanna Mälkki Appointed Principal Guest Conductor of Orquestra Gulbenkian" (Press release). Gulbenkian Música. 29 May 2013. Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- Allan Kozinn (2014-09-03). "Finnish Conductor Will Be First Woman to Lead Helsinki Philharmonic". New York Times (ArtsBeat blog). Retrieved 2017-11-12.
- "Susanna Mälkki to continue as Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra" (Press release). Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. 11 October 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
- "Susanna Mälkki Extends With Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra" (Press release). Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. 4 June 2019. Retrieved 2019-06-04.
- Andrew Clements (31 August 2006). "MacRae: Violin Concerto; Two Scenes From the Death of Count Ugolino; Motus, etc, Tetzlaff/BBCSSO/Volkov/Lixenberg/Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/ Mälkki". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2007.
- Steve Smith (2009-05-11). "Past Meets Present With Blurred Colors and Frenetic Rhythms". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
- "The winner of the Nordic Council Music Prize 2017". norden.org. 2017. Retrieved 8 November 2017.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Susanna Mälkki.|
- Susanna Mälkki's official website
- Ensemble InterContemporain French-language biography
- Bilingual interview, odb-opera.com (in French and English)
- Henna Salmela, Susanna Mälkki: interpreting Puumala (interview about the composer Veli-Matti Puumala)
- Stuart MacRae, "Violin Concerto". NMC catalog listing, NMC D115
- David Sawer, Tiroirs et al., NMC catalog listing, NMC D116
- CocoRosie meets Koninklijk Concertgebouw Orkest with Susanna Mälkki as conductor, cultureplayer.fabflows.com, 29 April 2008.
- Brian Bell, WGBH Radio's Boston Symphony Orchestra producer interviews Susanna Mälkki (February 2011)
Ole Kristian Ruud
| Music Director, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra
| Chief Conductor, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra