Composer Kaija Saariaho in Ireland This Week

Kaija Saariaho

Composer Kaija Saariaho in Ireland This Week

Finnish composer will attend performances of her works in Dundalk on 21 and 22 June.

The renowned Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho will be in Ireland this week for the Stations of the Sun festival in Dundalk, Co. Louth.

Presented by Louth Contemporary Music Society on 21 and 22 June, the festival begins with a concert of seven works on Friday evening including Changing Light (2002) for solo voice (soprano Raphaële Kennedy) and ensemble. The concert will also feature violinist Aliisa Neige Barrière, Saariaho’s daughter, who will perform Frises (2011) for violin and electronics. Flautist Camilla Hoitenga and cellist Jakob Kullberg will perform Mirrors (1997).

On Saturday night, a second concert of Sarriaho works will include Terra Memoria (2006) for string quartet (performed by Finnish group Meta4) and Près (1992) for cello and electronics performed by Kullberg.

Speaking to the Journal of Music, Eamonn Quinn of Louth Contemporary Music Society spoke about his admiration for the composer’s work.

I’ve been a big fan of hers for a long time. I remember the first time I heard that piece Près and I was really bowled over by it, particularly the electronics part … it’s very intricate.

Changing Light is another work he is looking forward to hearing: ‘It’s fantastic… she has her own voice, and that’s what you want in all art forms, someone who’s unique. [Changing Light] is a great example of that….’ For Quinn, Saariaho’s work is ‘crystal sharp’. ‘There’s real attention to detail. This music will be remarkable live.’

‘Something unique’
Saariaho is the latest in a line of international composers that Quinn has attracted to Louth, including Arvo Pärt, Terry Riley, Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, Sofia Gubaidulina, James Dillon, Jürg Frey, David Lang, Salvatore Sciarrino and Nicole Lizée. After Sciarrino’s visit last year, the Italian composer said, ‘Louth Contemporary Music Society’s Festival is not of people but of persons, gathering to think together, in the right place. Something unique that we need today: no ostentation, no tourism.’

The secret in putting on such ambitious programmes, says Quinn, is ‘perseverance’ but also ‘a lot of luck’. It was the violist Garth Knox who introduced him to Saariaho a few years ago and they began planning the visit and the programme. Local audiences, too, surprise him with their interest in new music. ‘They have been on this journey with me as well… The feedback you get from them is what makes it worthwhile….’

The Stations of the Sun festival will feature a lunchtime concert on Saturday of two works by György Kurtág, HiPartita for solo violin performed by Hiromi Kikuchi, and a new work Un pezzo settembrino for violin and viola (Kikuchi and Ken Hakii). On Saturday at 3pm, there will be a concert of three premieres by composers Linda Catlin Smith, Pascale Criton and Peter Garland, and at 5pm the Russian Patriarchate Choir will perform at St Nicholas’ Church of Ireland, Dundalk.

‘It does come down to the music,’ says Quinn. ‘You just really want to hear it and you want people to experience it.’

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Published on 18 June 2019

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