Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) is one of Finland’s internationally most successful composers, and she also leads an international lifestyle. She first studied with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy and went on to study with Brian Ferneyhough and Klaus Huber in Freiburg. She settled in Paris in 1982 and has lived there ever since, only a stone’s throw away from the famous studios of Ircam, an important base for her career.
Encountering the spectral music of Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey in Paris was an important experience for Saariaho. Rich tonal colour, textures and harmonies and balancing between tone and noise are at the very core of her music. She has not gone through abrupt stylistic changes in her career; instead, she has slowly but methodically expanded her domain and progressed from the static dreamlike atmospheres of her output of the early 1980s towards a more powerful and transfigured style in the 1990s, including the appearance of the melodic element in her writing.
The titles of Saariaho’s works conjure up fantastic poetic images: dazzlement (“Verblendungen”), secret gardens (the “Jardin secret” series), Northern lights (“Lichtbogen”), a crystal shattering into smoke (the orchestral diptych “Du cristal …? la fumée”) or a castle of the soul (“Cháteau de l’?me”). Saariaho often works visual or otherwise extra-musical inspirations into breathtaking colourist musical images, demonstrating an exceptionally delicate sense for sound. She frequently makes use of new technology, such as computers or electronic music, in working with her elegant musical language.
—extract of Finish Music Information Center; full article available at www.fimic.fi
(—Maarit Kytäharju/ FIMIC)