Over the last four decades, Kaija Saariaho’s music has served as an immense source of inspiration for music students, orchestras, composers and performers, concert organisers and audiences alike. In 2022, this inspiration will become flesh, culminating in a series of concerts and events bringing the entire Finnish classical-music world together for this unique occasion.
In October 2022, an array of acclaimed Finnish orchestras, ensembles and freelance performers is set to bring listeners a series of concerts showcasing and exploring the musical breadth of Kaija Saariaho’s oeuvre as she celebrates her 70thbirthday. The aim of this largescale collaboration is that the full panoply of Finnish musical life, including musicians of different ages and at different stages of their careers, can use these performances to bring their musicianship to ever wider audiences. As part of these anniversary celebrations, Saariaho’s music will bring together performers from all generations, ranging from her seasoned, trusted performers (including cellist Anssi Karttunen, soprano Anu Komsi, conductor Susanna Mälkki and conductor-violinist John Storgårds) to talented young students approaching this music for the first time.
In the autumn of 2022, Finnish audiences will have the unique opportunity to follow Saariaho’s compositional development in real time and experience three stage works composed at different stages of Kaija Saariaho’s career. Written in 1981 and withdrawn shortly thereafter, the stage work Study for Life will receive a second premiere performance after 41 years of silence in the production Between (Finnish National Opera, Almin Hall, 31.8–3.9). On 21.10, the Finnish National Opera will present the Finnish premiere of Saariaho’s latest largescale stage work, the opera Innocence (2018), while on 30.12 the Helsinki Music Centre will finally host a staged performance of the oratorio La Passion de Simone, a performance that was postponed no fewer than five times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Kaija Saariaho’s entire output dates from the time between the early Study for Life and the opera Innocence, and in addition to these three staged works, much of her music will be heard at concerts throughout October 2022.
In addition, the ensembles involved in the celebrations will commission new works by composers selected by Kaija Saariaho herself. New works inspired by Saariaho can already be heard this year, notably at her 70th birthday concert when Urut Soimaan ry (‘Play the Organ’, the association behind the new concert organ at Helsinki Music Centre) will present two new commissions by young composers.
Two concerts will be held to celebrate Kaija Saariaho’s 70th birthday on 14.10: under the baton of Susanna Mälkki, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Saariaho’s works Notes on Light and Verblendungen in the main hall of the Helsinki Music Centre as part of a wider programme. Meanwhile, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor John Storgårds will present a concert at Tampere Hall featuring Saariaho’s work Vista.
Additionally, on 15.10 the Urut Soimaan organisation will hold a gala concert at the Helsinki Music Centre in which it will present a cross-section of music spanning Kaija Saariaho’s long career. The concert will bring together a number of freelance ensembles, each of whom have had a lengthy artistic collaboration with Saariaho. The concert will also present premiere performances of specially commissioned works of chamber music by two composition students.
In 2022 we plan to raise our bows, batons and above all a toast to Kaija Saariaho and her music, but also to new generations of Finnish composers and performers and their continued creative work!
Featured in the series of celebratory concerts around Kaija Saariaho’s 70th birthday are Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Musiikkitalo, the Helsinki Music Centre Foundation, Urut Soimaan ry (‘Play the Organ’), the organisation Organo Novo ry, Oulu Sinfonia, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, the Sibelius Academy (University of the Arts Helsinki), Tampere Hall, the Tampere Filharmonia, and Teatro Productions.
Other collaborative partners are the cultural agency Palovaara & Ruusila Company, Studio Pekka Piippo Oy, Wise Music and Music Finland.