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In Memoriam Kaaija Saariaho

mon 19 jun 2023
On June 2, 2023, Kaija Saariaho, one of the leading composers in the world of contemporary music, passed away.
Her fame had existed since the eighties, when she made an impression in her early thirties with pieces such as Nymphéa, Lichtbogen and Verblendungen.
After the premiere of her first opera, L’amour de loin, in 2000 at the Salzburg Festival, she definitively joined the select group of the truly great. In 2019, The Guardian’s critics voted the opera one of the best works of the 21st century.
Saariaho was trained in serial techniques in Finland, but when she came across pieces by Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail in Darmstadt in 1980, her development took a decisive turn. She fell under the spell of French spectralism, went to study at the Ircam in Paris and wrote the first pieces there in the idiom that is now known as hers. In it she mixes instrumental sounds with electronics, or she bases purely instrumental music on computer research into sound spectra. Characteristic of Saariaho is, for lack of a better word, the impressionistic quality of her tonal language, which has a strong visual effect on the listener.
In three episodes of our programme Bijdetijds we reflect on some of her great compositions.