Veli-Matti Puumala (born 18 July 1965) established himself as one of Finland's most talented composers during the 1990s. He studied with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki from 1984 to 1993 and attended Franco Donatoni’s courses at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena in 1989 and 1990. Since 2005 he has been Professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. In 2011 he was awarded the Erik Bergman Jubilee Prize in recognition of his excellent, versatile work continuing the ethical and spiritual tradition of Modernism.
Puumala's music has been featured extensively at several festivals in Scandinavia and Europe, including the ISCM World Music Days in Zurich, the Nuove Sincronie concert series in Milan, the Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam, the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels, the Musica Festival in Strasbourg and the Lerchenborg Music Days in Denmark.
Ranking among Puumala’s principal works are his trilogies. The Chain trilogy for orchestra dates from 1994-97 (Chant Chains, Chains of Camenae and Chainsprings) and another (with epilogue) for ensemble includes Verso, Scroscio, Ghirlande and Tutta via. He has also written two concertos: Taon for double bass and orchestra, and Seeds of Time for piano and orchestra premiered in Helsingborg in 2004. His other works include Mure (2008), commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Memorial Fragment (2008) commissioned by the Kaustinen Chamber Music Festival, Rope (2012) commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company and Root, commissioned and premiered by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017.
Puumala has composed a wealth of ensemble and chamber works, such as Soira (1996) for accordion and 7 players, Umstrichen vom Schreienden (1997-98) for six cellos, Capriccio (2002) for 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos and the highly-acclaimed String Quartet (1994), which represents a turning point in his stylistic and technical approach. He has also written an opera, Anna Liisa, premiered at the Helsinki Festival in 2008. The CD released by Ondine Records has been a success and according to the review in Gramophone the opera is something special and deserves wide circulation outside its native land.
The music of Veli-Matti Puumala has a strong dynamic charge and tension. He exploits to the full the potential of the expressive means available in a refined and energetic way and is known to be a composer who has valued the ideals of Modernism throughout his career. The materials in his stylistic palette are clearly Postserial, yet he nevertheless aspires towards a mixture of rich timbres. His writing frequently displays a complex fabric bristling with activity, beneath which are structures designed to produce clarity, drama and contrast.
His music has been recorded on Jase (Voices Stringing – portrait CD of Puumala) and Ondine labels (e.g. Seeds of Time).
Veli-Matti Puumala, a master of time (Highlights 3-2013)