Heini Kärkkäinen studied piano at the Sibelius-Academy under Liisa Pohjola and continued her studies with Ralf Gothóni and Jacques Rouvier, among others. She won the Ilmari Hannikainen Piano Competition in 1984 and two years later she came second in the Maj Lind Piano Competition. In 1993 Kärkkäinen was nominated Young Artist of the Espoo International Piano Festival.
She has performed as soloist with orchestras e.g Finnish Radio Orchestra, Helsinki Filharmonic, Avanti Chamber Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, Tampere Filharmonic, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada, Orchestra della Svizzera Italiano, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, and has also played chamber music extensively in Europe and the United States.
Kärkkäinen has given first performances of many contemporary Finnish works. She was involved in a series of concerts that started in 2012 with the violinist Réka Szilvay: it was known as Beethoven Plus and the main focus was Beethoven’s Sonatas for piano and violin. The next project will be the Sonatas of Brahms and Bartók for violin and piano. She plays also regularly with the british cellist Robert Cohen. Kärkkäinen has made several prizewinning recordings. For example, the disc including music for the violin, piano and orchestra by Saint-Saëns (Kantorow, Kärkkäinen, Tapiola Sinfonietta) was British BBC Music Magazine’s disc of the month in March 2007, and the prestigious Gramophone Magazine included it in its list of recommended recordings.
Heini Kärkkäinen is the Principal Lecturer in the Tampere University of Applied Sciences. She is also the Artistic director of the new chamber music festival Tampere Chamber Music, “music and wellbeing play together”, which combines concerts, lectures, clinic workshops and masterclasses. The first festival was held on January 2017.