Ismo Eskelinen's career began when he was 17, spurred on by many prizes (the Scandinavian Guitar Competition, Gargnano, the Leo Brouwer Prize, the Guitar Foundation of America, Printemps de la Guitare), and has taken him to venues such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Royal Festival Hall and the Théâtre de la Monnaie.
On the season 2013-14 he performed as a soloist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and performed recitals and solo concerts in New York and at the Dresden Music Festival. He is the first guitarist to be invited as a soloist at the new Music Centre in Helsinki with both resident orchestras, The Helsinki Philharmonic and The Finnish Radio Symphony. He performs with conductors such as Sakari Oramo, Hannu Lintu, John Storgårds, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Ernest Martínez-Izquierdo and Okko Kamu.
Eskelinen's repertoire spans music from the 16th century to the present day and he has been equally acclaimed for his performances of Bach as for his premieres of works by composers such as Rautavaara, Sallinen, Tiensuu, Mustonen, Fagerlund and Lintinen. Many leading contemporary composers (such as Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks, Luca Francesconi, Leo Brouwer) have praised him for his intensive readings of their works.
As an active chamber musician Eskelinen has played with violinists Pekka Kuusisto, Baiba Skride, Massimo Quarta, cellist Jan Vogler, violist Vladimir Mendelssohn and with singers such as Jorma Hynninen. In 1999 he was a young artist of the year at Mikkeli Music Festival directed by Valery Gergiev. He has been the first ever guitarist to be invited to the Moritzburg, Charlottesville and Schaubeck Festivals. The Kuhmo Chamber music festival awarded him the medal for musicians having performed 5 years on the festival, as the only guitarist so far. He was a soloist on Virtuosi di Kuhmo chamber orchestra's 15th anniversary tour. On guitar festivals, such as GFA in USA, he is a popular performer and teacher.
During the 2003/04 season he appeared weekly in a popular current events programme on Finland's TV1 channel reaching up to 500 000 viewers weekly. TV appearances include also premiers of concertos written for him by Jukka Tiensuu and a finnish premiere of Tan Dun concerto.
Eskelinen's succesfull albums for Ondine and Alba include solo, concerto and chamber works by Ponce, de Falla, José, Mompou, Rodrigo, Pärt, Vasks, Takemitsu, Francesconi, Rautavaara and Miki. The latest CD's are Paganini duos with the violinist Pekka Kuusisto and solo works by J.S. Bach (2013).
Ismo studied with Oscar Ghiglia, Timo Korhonen and the pianist Ralf Gothóni and on masterclasses with Manuel Barrueco, David Russel and Leo Brouwer.
He teaches at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and is an artistic director of Sonkajarvi Soi festival.
Eskelinen's playing is bold and grand. He has a huge range of sound, both in dynamics and in timbre, though he never overplays. His rhythm is both rock solid and flexible where needed, and his ornamentation both inventive and tasteful. This is one of the finest Bach recitals I've heard in a while.