Highlights is our newsletter focusing on classical and contemporary music from the Nordic countries. You can download the most recent Highlights and find here in-depth material of music presented in it.
We asked our composers how they have been doing this exceptional spring. What new works are in the pipeline? What music have they been listening to at home? What books have they read, and what TV-series and films do they recommend? Here some extracts from Nordic Highlights.
My daily schedule has become very regular during Covid. In the morning, I compose 1–2 pages. In the afternoon, I’ve been for walks lasting 1–3 hours near home or further afield; sometimes I might spend longer at the most distant points… I end the day with some instrumental music, an opera or a book. I self-isolated until mid-May, since when I’ve partly relaxed, and I’ve seen my 2½-year-old granddaughter again. So life is more or less back to normal. Maybe I’ll gradually resume my other social life as well.
The fact I have not been able to see my grandchildren or go to concerts and the theatre has had the biggest impact on my life this Covid spring. Otherwise my days have been similar to those before the epidemic: I go jogging in the morning and in the afternoon I compose in my study, which has always been at home. I’m working – in rather little day-sized bites – on a concerto for violin, kantele and string orchestra scheduled to be premiered in 2022.
Later in the summer I’ll begin work on a commission for the 2021 Naantali Music Festival: Partita concertante for Arto Noras. I’ve also got several opera plans pending...Every morning my little old hands attack the piano keys, playing Bach preludes and fugues, Chopin polonaises, Liszt etudes and so on. It’s a real tonic! I read Patrik Svensson’s The Gospel of Eels – a wonderful combination of fact and fiction. In the spring, the post brought me Maritta Hirvonen’s book about Jouni Kaipainen – an elegant, erudite and extremely readable opus.
At general level, I reflect on the numerous ways the crisis is unearthing cultural problems. If, instead of taking a holiday in Thailand, you spend the money on a bicycle so you can ride out and admire the beauty of a nearby meadow, you will have taken an important step on many scores: by breaking the spell of must-have fashionable trends in general and scaling down the tourist industry in particular, by genuinely reducing overconsumption and by enhancing the right sort of physical activity in everyday life and your relationship with nature.
I have even been teaching composition from home this spring. I’ve listened to a surprising amount of music during Covid, to do with my job. Now, on the brink of summer, I’m particularly cheered to hear that the Seinäjoki City Orchestra is beginning its autumn season in an unusual way, with a streamed concert consisting entirely of my works. And what is more, one of them is a premiere.
I’m working on no fewer than seven compositions, the uppermost being two pieces for saxophone and piano with a pedagogical orientation commissioned by Kalle Oittinen. I have an insatiable hunger for music and listen to all sorts – often and a lot. Here at home, I listen to not only contemporary Finnish music but also the classics programmes on Yle Radio 1… I also listen to works by my Finnish composer colleagues a lot. The amount of good music being composed in Finland at the moment is simply incredible!
This spring I’ve been composing the opera called Regine commissioned by the Savonlinna Opera Festival, and this would in any case have involved sustained, solitary work. So in this sense, life hasn’t changed much, but some performances I’d been looking forward to have been cancelled both in Finland and abroad. Most of all I’ve been reading up about the opera’s leading character, Regine Olsen, such as the biography Kierkegaard’s Muse by Joakim Garff and various works by Kierkegaard… I’ve always got a scattering of poetry books on my desk.
I did a lot of running during the coronavirus shutdown, and I’m in much better shape, but I’ve honestly not gotten much composing done… But I’m looking forward to returning to composing this summer. I’m currently working on a solo piece for harp, which is a very challenging instrument to write for. I also started working on a very spacious, quiet, meditative piano piece. …Between keeping up with my son’s schoolwork and my own work, there has been less time than you’d think. But it’s a good time to get into my stack of unread books. I a fan of nonfiction.