World Premiere of Kaija Saariaho's final work at Helsinki Festival

World Premiere of Kaija Saariaho's final work at Helsinki Festival
Kaija Saariaho
© Maarit Kytöharju

The fruits of one of the most detailed and perhaps unlikely composer performer partnerships can be heard in Helsinki on August 24 and 25. Composer Kaija Saariaho, who died earlier this year, and trumpeter Verneri Pohjola started their collaboration in 2021 and it culminates with the premiere of Saariaho’s final work, HUSH, at Helsinki Festival. HUSH will be performed by Verneri Pohjola and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Susanna Mälkki, one of Saariaho’s great musical champions.

The performance on August 24 will be streamed live online and available to view following the concert on YLE Areena.

Saariaho wrote:

“HUSH is written for the trumpet player Verneri Pohjola, whose rich musical background and taste for extended techniques, experimentation, and improvisation have inspired me. During the writing of this piece, we have met on a regular basis, and Verneri has enlightened me as to the technical possibilities of the trumpet. Each concerto is in a way a portrait of the soloist for whom it was written, and so this one is his.
The first movement, “Let the thin air sing”, is an exposition that presents most of the material, including the title word ‘hush’. Starting from a low A-flat, it moves upwards to the higher register.
The second movement, “Dream of falling” explores glissandi of the solo trumpet, alone and in association with various sections of the orchestra, from the piccolos to the double basses, ending with a low B growl that is one of the trumpet’s lowest sounds. (This was workshopped with Verneri improvising on the idea of a sound falling down the sides of a well.)
The third movement, “What ails you?”, is dramatic but cold, insofar that I refrained from using any accelerandi and rallentandi, and the rhythm stays strictly mechanical. This maddening rhythm was inspired by the monthly scans I underwent in MRI machines during my illness.
The last movement “Ink the silence” is an accompanied trumpet solo moving forward through an orchestral landscape. When the movement stops, we understand that it was the landscape that was moving and not the traveller, and we peek beyond the façade of illusions, into a silence that we have loaded with memories.”

HUSH is commissioned by Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Festival, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Asko|Schönberg, Muziekgebouw, BBC Symphony Orchestra and Lahti Symphony Orchestra.

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