The first Naantali Music Festival was held in 1980 on the initiative of Professor Arto Noras and has from the very beginning been strongly oriented towards chamber music. The very first concert, of music by Mozart, Vivaldi and Brahms, was in Naantali Church. Over the years more than 500 artists and nearly 100 chamber ensembles and orchestras from Finland and abroad have appeared at the festival. In other words the objective set forth by Noras in the programme book for 1980 has been achieved:
”In addition to the Sibelius Academy Quartet, on the initiative of whose members the Naantali Music Festival has been founded, the festival will invite new Finnish and foreign artists of the highest order. The festival intends to establish a tradition of inviting a distinguished foreign chamber orchestra.”
The words spoken by Noras that very first summer still seem as fitting as ever:
"Creating a new and lasting music festival institution in Finland is by no means simple in these uncertain economic times, especially when the aim is to establish one that will, from the very outset, satisfy high artistic criteria and have a flexible, efficient organisation. Now, as the first Naantali Music Festival gets under way, I am nevertheless confident that the festival's timing, location and artistic standard will make Naantali a place well worth visiting for Finnish music-lovers."
Under the direction of Arto Noras the festival has established its position as a first-class music event and won the support of both a large band of concert-goers who return to Naantali year after year and of new listeners. The festival each year records a total attendance figure of around 18,000.