Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho dies at 70

During her 40-year career, Kaija Saariaho has composed numerous orchestral works, including electronic works, chamber music, vocal works and five operas. In 2016, she became the first woman in over 100 years to perform at the Metropolitan Opera with her opera, Lovers of Love. His works have been commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln Center and the Finnish National Opera. Her frequent collaborations include soprano singer Dawn Upshaw and conductor Susanna Marchi.

Saariaho was born in Helsinki in 1952, the eldest of her three children. She started playing the violin at age 6 and the piano at age 8 and quickly developed an interest in composition. A graduate of the Rudolf Steiner School and the Helsinki Conservatory, she was also a graphic design student at the Institute of Industrial Arts. Later she attended the Sibelius Conservatory, where her classmates included composer Magnus Lindberg, conductors Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and in Germany she was composer Brian Ferney. I also studied with Ho. Her first marriage was to Marc Saariaho, whose last name she took.

His awards include the Graumeyer Prize. Nemmers Prize, Sonning Prize, Polar Music Prize. And she won the Frontiers of Knowledge award in the music category. According to NPR, she was named the greatest living composer among 174 colleagues by a BBC Music Magazine jury in 2019. “I’ve always imagined music through light,” Saariaho said of her synesthesia in 2010. “My music is about color. and the light and that’s what drew me to the stage…I’m certainly not trying to be mystical…but the music itself is a big mystery. Why?” We can’t explain how music affects us so much. For me, music is as important as love, just as powerful and inexplicable.

Settled in Paris in 1982, she enrolled at IRCAM, an institute founded by Pierre Boulez for the study of acoustics, electronics and computing. She remained in Paris for the rest of her life. His latest work is a trumpet concerto entitled “Hush”, which will premiere in Helsinki in August. Additionally, his latest opera, Innocence, will premiere at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 2025/26 season.

The Orchester de Paris tweeted: “Very saddened to learn of the death of Kaiya Saariaho, the composer with whom we shared wonderful musical moments.” “Our hearts go out to his loved ones and his family.” Saariaho leaves two children with her husband, composer and multimedia artist Jean-Baptiste Barrière, writer and director Alexi Barrière and violinist and conductor Alyisa Neige Barrière.


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