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Bienen School of Music Announces Kaija Saariaho Residencies

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October 15, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, 2008 winner of the Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music's  $100,000 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, will be in residence at the Bienen School twice during the 2009-10 academic year. Her fall and spring residencies will include three ticketed concerts devoted exclusively to her works, which will be open to the public.

Her first residency will take place on the University's Evanston campus Nov. 17 to 20. During that week, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will present a 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, program of Saariaho's chamber works at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Ave., in downtown Chicago. The program will include Saariaho's "Terrestre" (2002) for flute, harp, percussion, violin and cello; "Six Japanese Gardens" (1994) for percussion with electronics; "Lichtbogen" (1986) for flute, percussion, harp, piano and strings with electronics; and "Solar" (1992) for chamber orchestra with electronics. Ticket prices for the Nov. 19 concert are $25 for the general public; $20 for Museum of Contemporary Art members; and $10 for students with IDS. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the museum's Web site at www.mcachicago.org.

Saariaho will return to the Bienen School April 13 to 16. Cellist Anssi Karttunen, for whom she wrote her cello works, will join Saariaho on the University's Evanston campus stage. That week will culminate with two all-Saariaho concerts: an April 15 all-cello concert will feature Karttunen and Northwestern students studying with Bienen School Professor Hans Jorgen Jensen, and an April 16 concert presented by the Bienen School of Music's Contemporary Music Ensemble, under the direction of music faculty member Ryan Nelson. Both concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will be held in Pick Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. For more information, call (847) 491-5726.
Saariaho studied at the Sibelius Academy in Finland with the pioneering modernist pianist and composer Paavo Heininen. She continued her studies at the Freiburg Hochschule in Germany and, from 1982, at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) research institute in Paris -- the city which has been her home ever since.
Her catalog of more than 80 works includes music of every genre, written for luminaries that include violinist and conductor Gidon Kremer; sopranos Dawn Upshaw and Karita Mattila, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestras. Saariaho has enjoyed particular success with her large works for voice. Her first opera "L'Amour de loin" (2000), with a libretto by author Amin Maalouf, is based on the life of 12th century troubadour Jaufre Rudel. Commissioned by the Salzburg Festival and the Theatre du Chatelet, it received widespread acclaim when it premiered in 2000 with Upshaw in the leading role and Peter Sellars as director. Two years later the piece won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award. A second opera, "Adriana Mater" (2005), also with a libretto by Maalouf and directed by Sellars, was premiered at the Opera Bastille.
Among Saariaho's many honors and awards are the designation of "2008 Composer of the Year" by Musical America, the Prix Italia, and the Musical Award of the North Council. Her music can be heard on more than 40 compact discs on the Deutsche Gramophone, SONY, ECM, EMI and Ondine labels, among others. For more information on Kaija Saariaho, visit http://tinyurl.com/2gdza6.

The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is a chamber music ensemble comprised of 30 versatile young performers who are dedicated to advancing the music of our time. ICE was founded in 2001, and has established itself as one of the leading "new music" ensembles of its generation, winning first prize in the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Awards, and performing more than 50 concerts a year in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to ICEs performances at major venues throughout the world, the ensemble has self-produced eight large-scale contemporary music festivals in venues as wide-ranging as nightclubs, galleries and public spaces, many of which are free and open to the public. ICE has released critically-acclaimed recordings on the Bridge, Naxos and New Focus labels.
 
A champion of music by emerging composers, ICE has given more than 400 world premieres to date. In 2004, ICE launched the 21st Century Young Composers Project, a worldwide call-for-entries by composers under the age of 35, which has culminated in the world premieres of works by rising young composers in 27 countries. For more information on the ICE ensemble, go to http://www.iceorg.org.

In fall 2004, the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music established the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition, a biennial award honoring classical music composers of outstanding achievement who have had significant impact on the course of composition. Nominations are solicited worldwide. A three-member selection committee, comprised of individuals of widely-recognized stature in the music community, determines the winner. The prize includes a cash award of $100,000, a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and a residency of four non-consecutive weeks at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music where the recipient interacts with faculty and students. Winners to date are John Adams (2004), Oliver Knussen (2006), and Kaija Saariaho (2008).