Paavo Heininen (born 13 January 1938) is a composer, essayist and pianist. A highly revered figure in Finnish musical circles, he is known as a prolific composer of chamber music, vocal music, piano and orchestral works. He composed two operas during the 1980s: The Knife (1985-88) and The Damask Drum (1981-83). He also guided a generation of young composers at the Sibelius Academy during a teaching career of more than forty years.
Heininen's natural starting point was from the beginning modernism; and he has remained true to his own ideas and ideals throughout his entire career. According to him, there is no need to change direction since to him, modernism means being open to all the possibilities that exist.
Heininen’s Adagio…concerto per orchestra in forma di variazioni… (1963/66) is regarded as a one of the cornerstones of Finnish dodecaphony. Heininen started exploring electro-acoustic music during the latter half of the 1970s and the potential of the computer in the early 1980s. His key works from that period include the tape composition Maiandros (1977) and the orchestral Dia (1979). Heininen has also produced a wealth of instrumental music, among them the Discantus I for alto flute (1965) and the Poesia squillante ed incandescente – Sonata per pianoforte (1974).
The reconstructions of works by Aarre Merikanto, his former teacher, constitute a chapter in themselves in Heininen's output. In his violin concerto A Notion (Tuuminki) (1993) Heininen also inhabits the world of Merikanto, and indeed the title continues with the words "of what might have been Aarre Merikanto's 3rd Violin Concerto". Vocal music is, however, perhaps closest to Heininen's heart because of his passion for texts: the marriage of word and music is, in his opinion, something unique, allowing the composer and the poet to express more together than they could ever do alone.
During the 1990s the stylistic spectrum expanded resulting in two "jazzy" works for big band (Wolfstock and Bookends, 1996-97) and, among others, orchestral works for the large Opus 66 (Music for Strings) containing a number of dance-like suites in 2-8 movements. His latest concertos are the Violin Concerto (1999), the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 (2004-05), the Flute Concerto Autrefois (2008/10) and the Organ Concerto Aiolos (2012-13). Heininen has also composed five symphonies; the fifth was commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company and premiered in 2003. He has also written numerous chamber and solo works (such as the Piano Trio Op. 91, Mazurki for piano, Variations for Organ and two organ trios). He opus list includes also several works for piano an organ, e.g. Täällä (Here, 2003) and e.g. sonatas for trumpet, tuba, French horn and trombone (2010).