Mikko Franck is one of the leading European conductors of his generation. He has become a major figure on the concert stage, as well as in the opera pit, etching out one of the most successful conducting careers ever achieved by an artist before reaching the age of 30. His repertory is broad, encompassing operas by Mozart, Wagner, Mussorgsky, and Puccini, and concert works by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Rautavaara, and many others.
Franck was born on April 1, 1979 in Helsinki, Finland, the youngest of five children. His father was a pianist. Mikko began study of the violin at the age of 5 and at 13 entered the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki as one of its most precocious students. He took further music instruction in Sweden, New York, and Israel. In 1995, at 16, he tried his hand at conducting (a Haydn symphony), and afterward decided to take up the baton. Initially, he took private lessons from Jorma Panula, then two years later had further studies in conducting at the Sibelius Academy, earning his diploma in just a year.
By 2002, Franck had conducted many orchestras in his native Finland, as well as several important ones abroad, including the Philharmonia, the London Symphony, and the Israel Philharmonic and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. In September 2002, he was appointed music director and chief conductor of the Belgian National Orchestra. That same year, his first recording was released on the Ondine label, Sibelius' En Saga and Lemminkäinen Legends, which received a Grammy nomination.
In 2004 Franck accepted the appointment of music director of the Finnish National Opera, beginning in 2006 and remaining there until 2013. With his career in meteoric ascent, he began to experience an unusual problem for a young conductor -- frequent cancellations. To cite one of the most prominent, he missed two dates with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 2004. The reason -- Franck had suffered a knee injury playing soccer at 12, and while that affliction healed over time, it forced him to overcompensate on his right side during certain activity, leading to back problems.
Franck's career, however, has hardly been derailed, since he has remained in great demand: the New York Philharmonic -- as well as other major orchestras -- has offered further invitations. He was music director of the Belgian National Orchestra between 2002 and 2007. In 2015, he succeeded Myung-Whun Chung as director of Radio France's Philharmonic. Franck has remained a familiar figure in the recording studio, as well, with efforts like his Rautavaara collection, entitled Book of Visions (2006), also on Ondine.