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Composer: Saariaho, Kaija (b. 1952)

Fact file
Year of birth1952
NationalityFinland
PeriodContemporary
March 2018
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05060708091011
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02030405060708
Evening performance
Matinee performance
Upcoming eventsSee more...

AntwerpTime Is Endless

Time Is Endless
Rachmaninov, Pärt, MacMillan, Rautavaara, Saariaho, De Ley, Miskinis, Ešenvalds
Klaas Stok; Flemish Radio Choir

LondonFrom the Soundhouse

From the Soundhouse
Stockhausen, Saariaho, McCarthy

HasseltTime Is Endless

Time Is Endless
Rachmaninov, Pärt, MacMillan, Rautavaara, Saariaho, De Ley, Miskinis, Ešenvalds
Klaas Stok; Flemish Radio Choir

ClevelandOberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble

Hellstenius, Ju, Saariaho
Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble; Peter Herresthal

BrusselsTime Is Endless

Time Is Endless
Rachmaninov, Pärt, MacMillan, Rautavaara, Saariaho, De Ley, Miskinis, Ešenvalds
Klaas Stok; Flemish Radio Choir
Latest reviewsSee more...

Mahan Esfahani's Prague tribute to Zuzana Růžičková

Mahan Esfahani and Tomáš Jamník © Anežka Horová
Czech harpsichord legend Zuzana Růžičková would have turned 91 on 14 January, making it an ideal night for a tribute concert featuring one of her star pupils, Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani. As he noted in brief remarks sandwiched between rousing renditions of Bach, “When she died, I lost a great teacher. But this country lost part of its history.

Blazing recital from Leila Josefowicz at Wigmore Hall

Leila Josefowicz © Chris Lee
Leila Josefowicz ticked all the boxes in this stunning recital: highly imaginative curation; musicality in every note; and a winning ability to communicate to the Wigmore Hall audience.
*****
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Gražinytė-Tyla's Childlike View of Heaven in Birmingham

Xavier de Maistre © Gregor Hohenberg
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra brought a fresh approach to Mahler's Fourth Symphony and the harp took centre stage for a change with a concerto première.  
***11
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La Passion de Simone: more a love letter than a portrait

La Passione de Simone © Smau Media
Saariaho’s lush orchestral shapes could just as readily suggest ecstasy as agony.
**111
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Saariaho's L'Amour de loin triumphs at the Met

Susanna Phillips (Clémence) © Ken Howard | Metropolitan Opera
Conductor Susanna Mälkki, in her Met Opera debut, led the Met Opera Orchestra in a limber performance of Ms Saariaho's gorgeous music, the first woman-authored score to be heard at the Met in 113 years.
****1
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Biography

You can read our October 2013 interview with Saariaho here.

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 12th-century troubadour Jaufré Rudel, received widespread acclaim in its première 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 première in Lyon in March 2010.

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. 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 of the Grawemeyer Award, the Wihuri Prize, the Nemmers Prize and in 2011 was awarded the Sonning Prize. In May 2013, Saariaho was awarded the Polar Music 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.