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News, 1/4/2008 | Consulate General of Finland, New York

The next wave of Finnish contemporary music

Finland's vivid contemporary music scene is producing new talents worth getting to know. Before long, this new generation will be conquering concert stages abroad. Recently, we discussed Finnish contemporary music with the new director of Musica nova Helsinki, Johan Tallgren.

"Finnish music has a fantastic reputation abroad,” said Helsinki-born composer Tallgren, who has lived in New York City for seven years. And he thinks that Finnish contemporary music has even more to give international audiences.

He claims that Sampo Haapamäki, who studies at Columbia University, and Veli-Matti Puumala, who is a professor at the highly-respected Sibelius Academy in Finland, just might be the next high-fliers coming from Finland.

"They are both extremely talented composers,” he said.

He believes that the keys to success are international collaborations and wide-ranging networking. Tallgren also claims that more displays of courage from the classical music world would be helpful.

"In popular music, new names are dropped all the time. People should be bold enough to do the same in classical music," he said. However, he also reminded us that transitions don't happen as quickly in classical music as they do in the pop world.

Tallgren easily identified a common denominator among Finnish composers that have succeeded in the United States. Other composers, who are still only dreaming of international success, might also find it useful.

"Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, and Esa-Pekka Salonen's works reflect a certain poetic theme. They never refer to Finland, and you don't hear Finnish zithers either," he said.


"Finnish music has a fantastic reputation abroad,” said Helsinki-born composer Tallgren, who has lived in New York City for seven years.

Musica nova Helsinki brings many top artists to Finland

Earlier this fall, Tallgren was chosen as the new artistic director of the contemporary music festival, Musica nova Helsinki. The festival, which was established in 1981 under the name Helsinki Biennale, will next take place in February, 2009.

"Musica nova is the biggest and most significant festival of contemporary music in Finland. All the important instances are gathered under the same roof", said Tallgren.

Tallgren, who has lived abroad for twelve years now, believes that his far-flung international networks will strengthen his efforts when putting together the festival program. He promised that during the festival many international performances will be seen in Finland for the first time.

Though the theme of 2009 remains highly secretive, Tallgren agreed to reveal that at least part of the festival will examine how music and other arts have developed in relation to society.

For those who are planning a trip to Finland, Tallgren claims that it will be the best possible week to visit his home country.

Big Apple's diversity attracts Tallgren

Currently Tallgren is in his final year at Columbia University. In spring 2008, he will receive a Doctor of Musical Arts degree. After that, his future is open. The future DMA isn’t excluding the possibility of teaching in the United States.

Tallgren praised his hometown for its multinationality and inspirational spirit. Though he is taking over the helm of Musica nova Helsinki, he said it's not clear-cut that he will return to Finland any time soon.

"I've got the edge living here in New York City. It is easier to meet people here, because after all, NYC is pretty close to Europe."

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Updated 1/4/2008


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