Esa-Pekka Salonen made his conducting début at the Turku Music Festival at two concerts with the Philharmonia Orchestra from London in 1986. Alexis Weissenberg gave a piano recital in 1985, and in the same year a young guitar virtuoso named Timo Korhonen was introduced to audiences. Jukka Tiensuu acclaimed the arrival of Derek Bailey in the programme book: “Having Derek Bailey come to Finland is as much of an occasion as if Gustav Leonhardt were to come here to play the harpsichord.” As it happens, Leonhardt did later perform at the Festival, in 1991, 1994 and 2007. Olli Mustonen, another future Artistic Director of the Festival, performed with cellist Heinrich Schiff in 1989.
The establishing of the Turku Music Festival Foundation took up practically the entire decade. The project was officially launched in autumn 1983 when the City Board decided to start negotiations for establishing the Foundation, but the first initiative dated back to a proposal by the Music Board to the City Board submitted in 1981. The negotiations were complicated; after several reports, studies, meetings, proposals and – finally – a decision, the Turku Music Festival Foundation was established in 1989. The 1990 Festival was the first to be organised by the Foundation.
Peter Schreier was booked to give a recital in 1987, but he fell ill and was replaced by Edith Mathis, accompanied by Ralf Gothóni. The Foundation appointed Kari Vase as Executive Director of the Festival and Olli Mustonen as Artistic Director.