Composer Kaija Saariaho on navigating early-career challenges

Posted on: July 22, 2022

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, “who will turn 70 this year, [has created] some of the most colorful, dreamlike and arresting compositions to be heard over the past four decades,” writes Tom Huizenga in Thursday’s (7/21) National Public Radio. “Her operas are staged in the most prestigious houses, her orchestral and chamber music is heard worldwide…. Saariaho [spoke] about the challenges along her path to success … and the profound love of sound that drives her desire to compose…. Q: You’ve told stories about some professors at the Sibelius Academy … who … said you were a pretty woman who would soon be married and they didn’t want to waste their time on you…. Saariaho: It was a very normal thing [at] that time…. It’s a pity, but that’s how that period was. At some point I thought … ‘I’m going to write my music and I will find my way.’ The most important person was Paavo Heininen, and he never talked about me being a woman. His objective was to teach me to compose…. He really encouraged us…. I always wrote the music that I needed to write…. I was not the rebel, in that sense.”