Joonas Kokkonen (1921-1996) was one of the dominant figures of the post-war history of Finnish musical life. He was also a leading symphonist who, in addition to composing made a tremendous contribution to his field by serving in numerous important administrative capacities, such as the chairman of Teosto, the Finnish copyright bureau and the chairman of the Nordic Composers Council. Kokkonen was also professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy from 1959 until 1963.
Kokkonen has come to be regarded as the spiritual successor to Sibelius while names such as Bach and Bartók have been proffed as his models. Following an early period of neoclassicism, he turned to 12-tone technique and on via his third symphony (1967) to free tonality. In the 1970s, especially, melody acquired an increasingly prominent position in his music.
Kokkonen was not a particularly prolific composer. Beginning with chamber music, he did not progress to orchestral music - nowadays considered his core genre - until he was nearly 40. Music for String Orchestra was written in 1957 and marked his breakthrough as a major orchestral composer. Kokkonen composed four symphonies in all; he is also known for his famous Cello Concerto, his Requiem and above all for the opera The Last Temptations completed in 1975. This main work by Kokkonen has won itself a place among one of the most succesful Finnish operas.