Saariaho and Sibelius
This seems to be the week for music themes on my blog. First, I learned that Kaija Saariaho has been named Composer of the Year by Musical America:
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho swore she would never write an opera and then went on to win the 2003 Grawemeyer for her first one, "L'Amour de loin," premiered at the 2000 Salzburg Festival. Her second, "Adriana Mater," receives its U.S. premiere at the Santa Fe Opera next summer. The beneficiary of Finland's remarkable musical education system, Saariaho is among the few contemporary composers to achieve public acclaim as well as universal critical respect. In the last decade alone she has had commissions from the major orchestras of Cleveland, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, and Paris.
Finnish musicians have done very well. In 2005 the Musical America Award was given to the Finnish soprano Karita Mattila, while the Conductor of the Year 2006 was the Finnish conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen.
After I wrote about Saariaho and the opening of her second opera in Paris last year, I succumbed to temptation and bought the L'Amour de Loin DVD. I meant to write about it after viewing it but never got around to it - it's fantastic - I must view it again.
The second musical item is also about a Finnish composer. Thanks to Jörg Colberg who wrote:
I am currently reading Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, which I couldn't recommend more - provided you have an interest in either the (cultural) history of the 20th Century and/or "classical" music. If you want to get an idea of the style and contents of the book, check out Alex Ross' article about Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, which also appears in the book.
I've read some of Alex Ross' excellent critiques on music, so this one really piqued my interest. It's very long and very interesting for the biographical material as well as an analysis of Sibelius' music in the context of its time. I learned some new things about Finland's most revered composer and the eternal struggle that many artists suffer. In fact, some years ago we saw a very moving play about Sibelius in his late years when he could no longer compose music.
Some further links for interested readers:
Ainola, the home of Aino and Jean Sibelius is not just a rustic cottage (below, as it is today)
Jean Sibelius at Virtual Finland (including more on Ainola)
After Sibelius, Finland's Rich Bounty of Musicians, a New York Times article