Gothóni is an authentic musical polymath who is active as a concert and solo pianist noted for his profound and sensitive interpretations, and as a Lied accompanist, composer, conductor, teacher, and author (he published a provocative collection of essays entitled The Creative Moment). His early formal musical education was at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki (1962-1965), with further studies in Switzerland (1964) and in West Germany (1965-1968). Since 1963, he has appeared as a solo and concert pianist in almost all of the European countries, as well as in Russia, Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, and South Korea. He has played the Salzburg, Berlin, and Edinburgh festivals and performed as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and many other leading ensembles.
From 1969 to 1970, Gothóni was the pianist at the Royal Swedish Opera and during the '70s, he became known as an excellent accompanist to such renowned Lied singers as Martti Talvela, Jorma Hynninen, and Anne-Sofie von Otter. After winning the Finnish Cultural Foundation Prize in 1983, Gothóni was engaged as a professor at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik (1986-1996). He served as the artistic director of the Savonlinna Opera Festival from 1984 to 1987 and, pursuing another of his musical directions, Gothóni was engaged as chief conductor of the Finlandia Sinfonietta from 1989-1994. In 1992, he took the position of professor at the Sibelius Academy and was the recipient of the prestigious Gilmore prize in 1994. Gothóni was principal guest conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra from 1995 to 2000, and served as artistic director of the Forbidden City Music Festival in Beijing, which took place in 1998. At several festivals, he has revived a practice from the Classical period by conducting the orchestra while seated at the piano. Simultaneously with these other activities, he was also a professor at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule in Berlin (1996-2000) and a visiting professor at the Royal College of Music. Gothóni was also the principal conductor of the distinguished English Chamber Orchestra (2000-2009). In 2001, he was appointed music director of Seattle's North-West Symphony Orchestra, the position ending when the orchestra was dissolved.
Gothóni's repertoire specializes in contemporary Finnish and Scandinavian composers (Aulis Sallinen, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Sibelius, Erkki Melartin, Selim Palmgren, Leif Segerstam, Yryo Henrik Kilpinen, and others) and music of the Romantic and late Romantic eras (Edvard Grieg, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Modest Mussorgsky, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and others), but he has recorded approximately 80 albums that also include music by moderns like Alfred Schnittke (a particular favorite of Gothóni's) and Heitor Villa-Lobos, as well as music of the Classical period (especially music by Haydn). Gothóni also lectures and holds master classes throughout the world (Europe, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea) and performs chamber music recitals with his wife, violinist Elina Vähälä. As a composer, Gothóni has written three chamber operas, a chamber cantata The Ox and Its Shephard, as well as a concerto grosso version of this piece for violin, piano, and strings.