© Priska Ketterer
Kaija Saariaho is a prominent member of a group of Finnish composers and performers who are now, in mid-career, making a worldwide impact. She studied composition in Helsinki, Freiburg and Paris, where she has lived since 1982. Her studies and research at IRCAM have had a major influence on her music and her characteristically luxuriant and mysterious textures are often created by combining live music and electronics. Although much of her catalogue comprises chamber works, from the mid-nineties she has turned increasingly to larger forces and broader structures, such as the operas L’Amour de loin and Adriana Mater and the oratorio La Passion de Simone.
For a complete biography, click here.
|Key Works: |
(1987; string quartet, electronics)
- Du Cristal
(1989; orchestra, live electronics)
- Graal Théâtre
(1994; violin, orchestra)
- L’Amour de loin
- Orion (2002; orchestra)
- Quatre Instants (2002; soprano, orchestra)
- Adriana Mater (2005; opera)
- La Passion de Simone (2006; soprano, SATB, orchestra)
- Notes on Light (2006; cello, orchestra)
- Mirage (2007; cello, soprano, orchestra)
- Emilie (2008; opera)
- D'OM LE VRAI SENS (2010; clarinet, orchestra)
|Career Highlights: |
- 1976-81 studies composition with Paavo Heinen at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki
- 1986 awarded Kranichsteiner Prize at Darmstadt
- 1989 awarded Ars Electronica Prize for Stilleben and Io; one year residency at the University of San Diego
- 1991 composition of ballet music Maa, premiered by Finnish National Ballet
- 2003 awarded the Grawemeyer Prize for L’Amour de loin
- 2006 premiere of Adriana Mater, Bastille Opera
- 2007 awarded Nemmers prize in music composition
- 2008 Composer-in-Residence, Mostly Mozart, Lincoln Center, New York
- 2009 awarded Wihuri Sibelius Prize
- 2011 awarded the prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize
Critical Acclaim: Simply unadorned and crystal-clear – Kaija Saariaho’s Love From Afar is modern opera at its most beautiful. — Liisamaija Hautsalo, Finnish Music Quarterly
It is rare when a new work sounds completely convincing and lucid at first hearing; thanks to Saraste and Karttunen, that was the case with Notes on Light. — The Boston Herald
Saariaho’s Lines are not only expressive and singable but immaculately clear. — Richard Morrison, The Times
Terra Memoria, a masterful new 15-minute string quartet by Finnish-born Kaija Saariaho. She is, quite simply, one of the most original compositional voices of our time. — Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post
Kaija Saariaho is a prominent member of a group of Finnish composers and performers who
are now, in mid-career, making a worldwide impact. Born in Helsinki in 1952, she studied at
the Sibelius Academy there with the pioneering modernist Paavo Heininen and, with Magnus
Lindberg and others, she founded the progressive ‘Ears Open’ group. She continued her
studies in Freiburg with Brian Ferneyhough and Klaus Huber, at the Darmstadt summer
courses, and, from 1982, at the IRCAM research institute in Paris – the city which has been
most of the time her home ever since.
At IRCAM, Saariaho developed techniques of computer-assisted composition and acquired
fluency in working on tape and with live electronics. This experience influenced her approach
to writing for orchestra, with its emphasis on the shaping of dense masses of sound in slow
transformations. Significantly, her first orchestral piece, Verblendungen (1984), involves a
gradual exchange of roles and character between orchestra and tape. And even the titles of
her next, linked, pair of orchestral works, Du Cristal (1989) and …à la Fumée (1990) – the
latter with solo alto flute and cello, and both with live electronics – suggest their
preoccupation with colour and texture.
Before coming to work at IRCAM, Saariaho learned to know the French ‘spectralist’ composers, whose techniques are based on computer analysis of the sound-spectrum. This analytical approach inspired her to develop her own method for creating harmonic structures, as well as the detailed notation using harmonics, microtonaly and detailed continuum of sound extending from pure tone to unpitched noise – all features found in one of her most frequently performed works, Graal théâtre for violin and orchestra or ensemble (1994/97).
Later Saariaho has turned to opera, with outstanding success. L’Amour de loin, with a libretto by Amin Maalouf based on an early biography of the twelfth-century troubadour Jaufré Rudel, received widespread acclaim in its premiere production directed by Peter Sellars at the 2000 Salzburg Festival, and won the composer a prestigious Grawemeyer Award. Adriana
Mater, on an original libretto by Maalouf, mixing gritty present-day reality and dreams, followed, again directed by Sellars, at the Opéra Bastille in Paris in March 2006. Emilie, an opera and monodrama for Karita Mattila had its premiere in Lyon in March 2010.
Around the operas there have been other vocal works, notably the ravishing Château de l’âme (1996), Oltra mar (1999), and the song-cycle Quatre instants (2002). And the evening-long La Passion de Simone, portraying the life and death of the philosopher Simone Weil, formed part of Sellars’s international festival ‘New Crowned Hope’ in 2006/07.
The experience of writing for voices has led to some clarification of Saariaho’s language, with a new vein of modally oriented melody accompanied by more regular repeating patterns. This change of direction has been carried over into orchestral works including Aile du songe for flute and chamber orchestra (2001) and the stunning Orion for large orchestra (2002) , Notes on
Light (2006) for ‘cellist Anssi Karttunen and the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Bergman inspired Laterna Magica (2008) for Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Most recently D’OM LE VRAI SENS, was written for the clarinettist Kari Kriikku.
In the profusion of large and small works which Saariaho has produced in recent years, two features which have marked her whole career continue to stand out. One is a close and productive association with individual artists – not least Amin Maalouf
and Peter Sellars, as well as the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the flautist Camilla Hoitenga, the ‘cellist Anssi Karttunen, the soprano Dawn Upshaw and, the pianists Emmanuel Ax and Tuija Hakkila . The other is a concern, shown equally in her choice of subject matter and texts and in the profusion of expression marks in her scores, to make her music not a working-out of abstract processes but an urgent communication from composer to listener of ideas, images and emotions.
Saariaho has claimed the major composing awards in The Grawemeyer Award, The Wihuri Prize, The Nemmers Prize and in 2011 was awarded The Sonning Prize. In 2015 she will be the judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award.
The most recent orchestral work, Circle Map, has jointly been commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orcestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. The piece has been inspired by six poems of Rumi. These poems recited in Persian are used as the material for the electronic part. Circle Map was premiered by Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Susanna Mälkki at the Westergasfabriek Gashouder, Amsterdam on June 22 2012.
The music of Kaija Saariaho is published exclusively by Chester Music and Edition Wilhelm Hansen, part of the Music Sales Group of Companies.
- Pull Out All The Stops
- Southbank Centre has commissioned new works by Music Sales composers Maxwell Davies, Tavener, Saariaho and others in a celebration of the restoration and 60th anniversary of the Royal Festival Hall Organ.
From March 18 to April 14 2014, Southbank Centre are delighted to be hosting the month-long Pull Out All The Stops Festival – An Organ Celebration which will involve performances and premieres to herald the anticipated arrival of the new organ.
Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director Judy Kelly says…
‘We want to share our passion for the organ and have commissioned new work from eight artists from very different fields: from revered composers such as Kaija Saariaho and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to visual artist/composer Martin Creed…We hope that this new repertoire will have a life beyond this very special moment.’
The opening gala concert on March 18 2014 will feature the premiere of new work Monument to Beethoven by Tavener and close with the world premiere performance of a piece for organ, brass and youth choir by Maxwell Davies. Succeeding this will be an array of co-commissions and more premieres making this year an exciting one for some of the leading composers of today.
Southbank Centre has commissioned the following for the upcoming organ festival:
March 30 2014
Work to be announced
April 24 2014
The Wild Reeds (London Premiere)
Thomas Trotter, organ
June 26 2014
Work to be announced (UK Premiere - Philharmonia Orchestra; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor)
Co-commission with Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and Orchestre National de Lyon
Work to be announced
Joint commission with the Royal College of Organists
Work to be announced
Co-commission with Los Angeles Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
More details including the full-line up for the festival will be announced in April with sales bookings opening on April 26 for Southbank Centre Members and April 29 for general. For further information, please see the Southbank Centre press release.
- Kaija Saariaho wins 2013 Polar Music Prize
The Polar Music Prize 2013 has been awarded to Chester Music composer Kaija Saariaho. After studying at IRCAM in Paris, an institution for research and study of electro-acoustic music, Saariaho has developed into a unique composer, a metal worker’s daughter who reexamines what music can be. When she was growing up, the music that inspired her came not from the radio but from the pillow; that was where she found the music she dreamt of. Kaija Saariaho combines acoustic instruments with electronics and computers. She has written chamber music, orchestral works and operas.
On August 27 the Laureates will receive the prize from His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden at a gala ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall to be followed by a celebratory banquet at Grand Hôtel. The ceremony will be broadcast live on national television (TV4). Later in the evening, a summary of the ceremony and the banquet will be broadcast. Each recipient receives a total amount of one million SEK.
The Polar Music Prize was founded in 1989 by the late Stig ”Stikkan” Anderson, a true legend in the history of Swedish popular music. Stig Anderson was the publisher, lyricist and manager of ABBA, and he played a key role in their enormous success. The name of the prize stems from Anderson’s legendary record label, Polar Music. The Polar Music Prize is an international music prize, which is awarded to individuals, groups or institutions in recognition of exceptional achievements in the creation and advancement of music.
The Polar Music Prize awards two Laureates in order to celebrate music in all its various forms and to emphasize the original intention of the Polar Music Prize: To break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music.
The board of the Polar Music Prize Foundation consists of representatives from the Stig Anderson family, SKAP (The Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers) and STIM (The Swedish Performing Rights Society). The task of scrutinizing nominations submitted and selecting the ultimate Laureates is empowered The Polar Music Award Committee comprising of internationally renowned artists and musicians as well as other key figures in the Swedish music industry.
2012 Yo-Yo Ma and Paul Simon
2011 Kronos Quartet and Patti Smith
2010 Ennio Morricone and Björk
2009 José Antonio Abreu & El Sistema and Peter Gabriel
2008 Renée Fleming and Pink Floyd
2007 Steve Reich and Sonny Rollins
2006 Valery Gergiev and Led Zeppelin
2005 Gilberto Gil and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
2004 B.B. King and György Ligeti
2003 Keith Jarrett
2002 Sofia Gubaidulina and Miriam Makeba
2001 Burt Bacharach, Robert Moog and Karlheinz Stockhausen
2000 Bob Dylan and Isaac Stern
1999 Stevie Wonder and Iannis Xenakis
1998 Ray Charles and Ravi Shankar
1997 Eric Ericson and Bruce Springsteen
1996 Pierre Boulez and Joni Mitchell
1995 Sir Elton John and Mstislav Rostropovich
1994 Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Quincy Jones
1993 Dizzy Gillespie and Witold Lutoslawski
1992 Sir Paul McCartney and The Baltic States