Roland Pöntinen is a virtuoso pianist whose busy concert and recording schedule would seem to preclude work as a composer and arranger, but he has managed to produce a substantial and worthwhile output in both those creative roles. As a pianist Pöntinen has developed a vast repertory of standards by J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Grieg, Rachmaninov, and Prokofiev, to name just some. But he also performs a whole range of neglected and contemporary works by Satie, Alfvén, Sven-Erik Bäck, Waldteufel, Virgil Thompson, Maxwell Davies, Saariaho, and countless others, many of whom are virtual unknowns. And Pöntinen regularly performs not only as soloist and recitalist, but as a chamber player of vast experience: indeed, he has collaborated with violinists, violists, cellists, trumpeters, trombonists, cornetists, flutists, percussionists, and various chamber groups. It would be hard to imagine a performer with a larger repertory and greater variety in performance. As a composer Pöntinen has written jazz and popular music, as well as classical compositions. He has also made arrangements of music by Vivaldi, David Bowie, Kate Bush, and Radiohead. Pöntinen's numerous recordings have appeared on more than a dozen labels, but with the vast majority on BIS.
Roland Pöntinen was born in Danderyd, Sweden, in 1963. His first advanced studies were at the Stockholm (Adolf Fredrik) Music High School, with Gunnar Hallhagen. Pöntinen had later studies at the Banff Centre for Fine Arts in Canada, with Menahem Pressler and György Sebök. He also studied privately with Elisabeth Leonskaja in Vienna.
Pöntinen made his debut as soloist in 1980 with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. He formed a jazz group the following year and wrote several compositions for performance with them, the scoring typically involving piano, percussion, bass, strings, and saxophones.
Pöntinen made his first recording for BIS in 1983 (issued in January 1984), Roland Pöntinen Plays Russian Piano Music, which included works by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninov. He continued to steadily build his career on all fronts, and by 1990 he had made 20 recordings for BIS alone.
In 1998 Pöntinen's work Blue Winter (1987), for trombone and strings, was premiered in Philadelphia and then given a critically acclaimed Carnegie Hall performance a few weeks later. In 2001 Pöntinen was given one of Sweden's most prestigious arts awards, the Litteris et Artibus medal. Among Pöntinen's later recordings is the 2010 BIS CD of Brahms cello sonatas, with cellist Torleif Thedéen.