Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho dead at 70

AFP , Saturday 3 Jun 2023

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho died Friday in Paris at the age of 70, her family and publisher said in separate statements.

Kaija Saariaho
Composer Kaija Saariaho, of Finland (File Photo: AP)


Her family said she had died in her bed at her Paris home, having lived in the French capital for four decades.

"Kaija fought against illness with all her might and with grace," said her publisher Chester Music.

Saariaho -- a rare case of a female composer breaking through the glass ceiling and a figurehead for a generation of Finnish artists -- won France's Victoires de la Musique Classique accolade for her opera Innocence last year.

The multilingual work, seven years in the making, had support from two of her compatriots -- playwright Sofi Oksanen, who wrote the libretto, and Susanna Malkki who led the orchestra.

Saariaho had also gained renown with her 2002 work "L'Amour de loin" ("Love from afar") with a libretto written by Amin Maalouf, which later was reprised by the New York Met.

Although she earned general renown as early as the 1980s, it wasn't until the dawn of the 21st century when Saariaho broke through to wider popular consciousness in the world of contemporary music and opera.

Born Kaija Anneli Laakkonen on October 14, 1952 in Helsinki, she grew up in a family with no links to music but as a child learned to play piano and violin.

She went on to study composition at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy and undertook further study in Germany.

She then transferred to France's IRCAM institute of music from 1982, and two years later married French composer Jean-Baptiste Barriere.

In March of this year Finnish President Sauli Niinisto conferred on Saariaho the honorary title of Academician of Arts -- an accolade previously only granted to a handful of artists.

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