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Sunday, February 25, 2024

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho has died at age 70 : NPR

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho was at all times looking for new timbres of instrumental sound.

Raphael Gaillarde/Getty Pictures

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Raphael Gaillarde/Getty Pictures

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho was at all times looking for new timbres of instrumental sound.

Raphael Gaillarde/Getty Pictures

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, an artist who supplied a blinding palette of colours in her music, died from problems of mind most cancers Friday at her dwelling in Paris. Her dying was confirmed in a Fb submit by her household and shared by her writer. She was 70 years outdated.

“I feel that sound and shade will not be fully indifferent from one another,” the composer advised NPR final yr. “That is possibly how it’s in our mind. And I feel that sure sounds, or sure sorts of music, can have even a selected odor. So I really feel that each one the senses are someway current once I compose.”

Her profession started in a much less sure-footed place. She defined that as a shy younger composition scholar on the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, some professors refused to show her, saying that she was too fairly and would quickly be married. It was her drive to compose that helped her recover from the sexism. “Now once I give it some thought, it is a pity, however that is how that interval was,” she recalled. “In some unspecified time in the future I assumed, nicely, that is what they assume — however I’ll write my music anyway.”

In 2016, Saariaho’s already profitable opera L’amour de loin turned solely the second opera by a girl (and the primary in 103 years) to be staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. When requested in regards to the lack of visibility ladies composers have in at this time’s opera homes, she remarked that throughout the Met run of L’amour, that subject was the one one journalists needed to speak about. “With social media, the cult of persona has taken over,” she mentioned. “May we lastly converse in regards to the music?”


Saariaho’s most up-to-date opera, Innocence, a narrative a few faculty capturing, simply acquired its U.Ok. premiere in April at London’s Covent Backyard. The Telegraph referred to as it a “trendy masterpiece,” and in a assessment, Nicholas Kenyon referred to as it “a contemporary music-drama worthy to face within the wealthy custom that stretches from Monteverdi to Britten and past. It’s a actually nice opera for our troubled instances.” The opera will likely be staged on the Met within the 2025-2026 season.

Kaija Saariaho was born Oct. 14, 1952, in Helsinki. As a baby, she had a vivid creativeness, and would describe listening to melodies in her head. “After I was in mattress within the night, I stored listening to this music,” she recalled. “I could not sleep, so I requested my mom if she might ‘flip off’ the pillow, as a result of I used to be imagining that it got here from the pillow. In my creativeness, there was a lot sound and shade, and it typically made me a bit bit absent-minded as a result of the sensations have been very sturdy.”

Early in her profession, Saariaho was a member of Korvat Auki (“Ears Open”), a society of avant-garde composers who lobbied on behalf of up to date music, which of their minds was not heard sufficient in Finland. Her fixed striving for brand new sounds and new combos of devices led her to Paris in 1982, the place she labored primarily at IRCAM, the institute for experimental music based by Pierre Boulez. There she started a lifelong examine of instrumental approach and sound, resulting in a breakthrough work, Lichtbogen, which blurs the boundaries between acoustic and digital devices.

Saariaho would go on to jot down music in a broad spectrum of types, together with opera, ballet, songs, chamber music and concertos. Among the many fervent champions of her music are soprano Daybreak Upshaw, who sang within the premiere of L’Amour de loin, violinist Gidon Kremer, to whom the concerto Graal théâtre was devoted, and conductor and compatriot Esa-Pekka Salonen, who has led lots of her works.


The composer’s dying struck many, even within the classical music neighborhood, as a shock; based on the assertion from Saariaho’s household, she had stored her sickness pretty personal. Amid many tributes from shocked followers on social media, British journalist Andrew Mellor described her as “a pioneer in each sense,” including: “In imagining states of pure mild in music, she was up there with Haydn and Wagner. Possibly even past them.” The composer David T. Little referred to as her “a dramatist of profound depth.”

Over her profession, Saariaho earned many main composing awards, together with the Grawemeyer Award, the Nemmers, Sonning and Polar Music Prizes and the Frontiers of Information Award for music. In 2019, she was voted the biggest residing composer by a BBC Music Journal panel of 174 of her friends. She is survived by her husband, composer and multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière, her son Aleksi Barrière, a author and director, and her daughter Aliisa Neige Barrière, a violinist and conductor.

Saariaho at all times gave the impression to be looking for new sounds and recent methods to specific herself. “Music is so fantastically versatile,” she mentioned. “It has been utilized in all of the rituals and at all times it finds its place. So I hope that up to date music like mine additionally finds its place.”

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