Aulis Sallinen: Four Summer Premieres
6th June 2017
'Sallinen takes you on a journey so wonderous you are sorry when it ends.'
— Anthony Tommasini, New York Times
Aulis Sallinen is one of Finland’s greatest symphonists and operatic composers – a bold claim, but one easily defended. His works for the orchestra and the stage acknowledge the strong Sibelian tradition with its thematic choruses of wind and strings, but simultaneously look forward, stripping away the grandeur and filling its bars with fascinating twists and turns. This summer, however, it is his chamber and vocal music which takes centre stage as four new works receive their premieres.
Naantali Music Festival
The premier chamber music festival, held in Finland's most popular tourist town, this year marks the centenary of the country’s independence. Two new works by Sallinen will premiere on June 15 and 17. The first, Katso pohjoista taivasta Op 109 (Watch the Northern Sky), a song cycle for soprano, baritone and piano sets text by the Finnish poet Helvi Juvonen. Johanna Rusanen-Kartano will be joined by baritone, Ville Rusanen and pianist Parmi Karvonen. On July 17, Sallinen's Clarinet Quartet ‘The Sea of Peace’ Op 108 will be performed by Michel Lethiec (clarinet), Elina Vähälä (violin), Hartmut Rohde (viola) and friend of the composer, Arto Noras (cello), at Naantali Church. The concert celebrates the 80th birthday of diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner (2008) Martti Ahtisaari.
Savonlinna Opera Festival
The iconic opera festival dates right back to 1912, founded during a period of growth in national identity. It is therefore fitting that, in Finland’s one-hundredth year, the festival should programme Sallinen’s grand opera, Kullervo. Based on the Finnish Kalevala epic, Kullervo tells the story of an ill-fated boy orphaned by the villain Unto. He is provoked to commit murder and led down a path of despair. The production can be seen on July 7, 8 or 17 at Savonlinna castle. Following a staging of the opera in 2014, the festival has commissioned a work from Sallinen: Linna vedessä (The Castle in Water). Sallinen’s self-defined ‘chronicle for narrator, soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, chamber orchestra and the castle of Olavinlinna’ sets text by Lassi Nummi - who wrote texts for his popular work The Barabbas Dialogues - words which describe the 500-year-old history of the medieval castle and home of the festival. The Castle in Water will receive its premiere on July 8.
Lovisa Sibelius Festival
Concluding the activities for the summer, the last of the premieres Dance Music Suite Op 107 for accordion, violin, piano and cello takes place on September 8 at Porvoo Cathedral. Friend, long-time supporter of Sallinen’s music, and accordionist Mika Väyrynen, will be joined by Elina Vähälä (violin), Paavali Jumppanen (piano) and Jan-Erik Gustafsson (cello).
About Aulis Sallinen
Aulis Sallinen was born in 1935 in Salmi, Finland on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga (which the Soviet Union claimed in 1944). His early musical experience was playing the violin. Improvising (including jazz) on the piano led him to write his first compositions as a teenager. After studying at the Sibelius Academy, he joined the staff there. Early in his career he experimented with serialism, but soon he adopted a clear, diatonic style that often evokes the cold expanse of Finnish landscapes - most notably in his eight powerful symphonies. With a strong sense of national identity, Finnish traditional melodies often appear in Sallinen’s works, and the subject matter of several of his six operas draws on the history and folklore of that country, such as The Red Line, set against the backdrop of the first Finnish national election, or Kullervo, based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.
Read full biography
Hear examples of Sallinen’s finest vocal works, three of his symphonies, selections of other chamber music and excerpts from his debut opera, The Red Line.