Jenna Ristilä (b. 1989) is a Finnish pianist. She mostly works with singers, but also performs chamber music and solo repertoire. Currently Ristilä is doing artistic research at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki. Her doctoral project focuses on Finnish composing women from the 19th century onwards. Ristilä is a member of the research association Suoni ry.

Ristilä has worked as a music director and pianist in several operas for both adults and children, and she always gets excited about planning lied programs – but she's just as comfortable while coaching singers, recording, playing choir- or chamber music... Ristilä is fascinated by contemporary music and she has premiered several works, including the song cycle Guldgrävarens tårar by Johannes Pollak (with mezzosoprano Ylva Gruen), and the chamber opera Jääkausi by Itzam Zapata (with the Start-up Opera group she founded).

In 2014 Ristilä graduated as a Master of Music from the Department of Performing Arts at the Sibelius Academy, and in 2018 she completed her second master's degree at the same university, this time with vocal coaching as her major. 2010-2011 Ristilä was an exchange student at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff. Her most significant teachers include Teppo Koivisto, Ilmo Ranta and Anja Ojanen-Forsberg, and she has studied classical singing and harpsichord as well as piano.

Ristilä would like to thank the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Kone Foundation, the Finnish-Swedish Cultural Foundation, and Arts Promotion Center Finland for their support.

Listen to music here.

...or check out Christian Holmqvist's Songs in Spotify.

Press photos available here.


Ristilä's artistic research at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki focuses on Finnish composing women from 19th century until today. In her research she explores how gender can come into play within the trifecta of composer, work and performer.


[Program details can be found from the Tutkimus-page.]

1. Women's Salon

14.5.2022 Organo Hall, Helsinki Music Center
Milla Mäkinen, soprano & Jenna Ristilä, piano

In her first doctoral recital Ristilä performed small-scale piano music and solo songs with soprano Milla Mäkinen. All the poets and composers in this program were women, which is rare in the European lied tradition.

2. Woman & Sonata

14.11.2023 Sibelius Academy Concert Hall, Helsinki
Iiris Tötterström, cello & Jenna Ristilä, piano

The second concert focused on sonatas from three different centuries. Very few Finnish women have composed sonatas. Researchers have speculated that this is due to restrictions in educational opportunities and lack of time, family pressure etc.

3. Dancing Woman

14.11.2024 Organo Hall, Helsinki Music Center
Jenna Ristilä, piano

The thirst concert consists of solo piano works inspired by dance. Dance in piano music is a very versatile category – there are polyphonic baroque dances, virtuosic romantic solo pieces, and folk dance -inspired works, just to name a few.

4. Travelling Women

Autumn 2025

The last concert arranges itself around the question, who is a Finnish composer. The program includes works by composers whose nationality is a complex matter. This is especially interesting regarding the composers who lived when Finland as an independent state didn't yet exist.

Conference papers

Sex in Sonata Form

  • Gender and Musicianship study days, 24–25.1.2022, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki
  • X conference of doctoral studies 14.3.2023, Music and Dance Academy, Tallinn, Estonia

In this lecture recital I examine how women composers approach absolute music, and as an example of that I analyze Laura Netzel's piano sonata (1893) in the light of gendered sonata form theories from 19th century. I show how Netzel uses gendered themes in what could be interpreted as a feminist way, and play excerpts from the sonata. The analysis is based on Marcia Citron's (1994) and Liane Curtis' (1997) feminist analyses. Both Citron and Curtis have discovered interesting ways in which women composers handle their thematic material, both texturally and structurally, that could be interpreted as challenging sexual stereotypes.

Gender, agency, and status in Carita Holmström's Södergran songs

  • Gen­der and mu­si­cian­ship in North(-)/​East­ern Eu­rope -symposiumi 12–13.2.2024, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki

This lecture recital focuses on Carita Holmström's song cycle Dagen svalnar (The day cools) – 4 songs to poems by Edith Södergran. Södergran's poems present a typical 'innocent woman falls for experienced man' -narrative, which has been the inspiration of so many poems and songs for centuries. In this lecture I am using the female character's perspective, her agency and status as the basis of my analysis of Södergran's poems and Holmström's compositions. In this kind of stories, the status hierarchy is often clear: the man is the protagonist, and the woman is portrayed as a passive being (the famous other). In this song cycle, however, I claim that many of the compositional choices made by Holmström emphasize the agency of Södergran's woman, and that both the poems and the music challenge the expected status hierarchy. My analysis is inspired by Marion Guck's article A Woman's (Theoretical) Work (1994), and Sara Ahmed's thoughts on personal and theoretical in her book Living a Feminist Life (2017).


Jenna Ristilä