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Two All-Saariaho Concerts April 15-16

March 31, 2010 | 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 from April 12 to 16.

Saariaho's Evanston campus residency will include two ticketed concerts -- April 15 and 16 -- devoted exclusively to her works. Cellist Anssi Karttunen, for whom Saariaho has written cello compositions, will join Saariaho during the residency. Karttunen will coach students as well as perform and conduct the April 15 concert.

Open to the public, both 7:30 p.m. performances will be held at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive. They include:

  • Thursday, April 15, an all-Saariaho program featuring Karttunen and Northwestern cello students studying with Bienen School Professor Hans Jorgen Jensen. Karttunen will perform Saariaho's solo piece "Pres" and conduct "Neiges," an orchestration for eight to 12 cellos. The student cellists will perform the solo and works for two to six players: "Spins and Spells, "Petals," "Oi Kuu," "Mirrors" and "Sept Papillons."
  • Friday, April 16, a concert presented by the Bienen School of Music's Contemporary Music Ensemble, will be directed by music faculty member Ryan Nelson. The program will include Saariaho's "Amers," a 20-minute piece for large ensemble featuring cello soloist and Northwestern doctoral student Russell Rolen, and "Graal theatre," a 25-minute chamber work featuring guest violinist and Northwestern alumnus Austin Wulliman.

Ticket prices for each concert are $7 for the general public; $5 for seniors and Northwestern faculty and staff; and $4 for full-time students with IDs. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.pickstaiger.org or phone (847) 467-4000.

Kaija Saariaho

Saariaho's catalog of more than 90 works includes music of every genre, written for such luminaries as violinist and conductor Gidon Kremer, sopranos Dawn Upshaw and Karita Mattila, and the New York Philharmonic 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 journalist and novelist 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, premiered at the Opera Bastille in Paris. "Emilie," an opera and monodrama for Karita Mattila, premiered at the Opera de Lyon and De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam in March 2010.

Among Saariaho's many honors and awards are the designation of "2008 Composer of the Year" by Musical America and the Prix Italia. Her music can be heard on more than 40 compact discs on the Deutsche Gramophone, Sony, ECM, EMI, Ondine and other labels. For more information on Saariaho, visit http://tinyurl.com/2gdza6. For more information on Saariaho's Northwestern University residency call (847) 491-5726.

Anssi Karttunen

Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen performs worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician and served as principal cellist of the London Sinfonietta from 1995 to 2005. He is a passionate advocate of contemporary music. His collaboration with composers has led to more than 90 world premieres of works by Saariaho, Magnus Lindberg, Rolf Wallin, Luca Francesconi, Tan Dun and other composers. Eighteen concertos have been written expressly for Karttunen, including Lindberg's Cello Concerto in 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen's Concerto "Mania" in 2000, Martin Matalon's Cello Concerto in 2001 and, in 2004, Francesconi's Cello Concert "Rest." Saariaho's 2006 concerto "Notes on Light" was a Boston Symphony Orchestra commission for Karttunen. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has commissioned a concerto from Oliver Knussen. Karttunen has performed with the world's great orchestras and at major festivals. He can be heard on the Sony Classical and Deutsche Grammophon labels.

Karttunen was the artistic director of the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra (1994 to 1998), the Helsinki Biennale (1995 and 1997) and the Suvisoitto Festival in Porvoo, Finland (1994 to 1997). He has appeared as conductor with the Flanders Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic cello ensemble and the Gaida Ensemble. He is a founding member of www.petals.org, a non-profit organization for the production and sales of compact discs and scores on the Internet. A student of Erkki Rautio, William Pleeth, Jacqueline du Pre and Tibor de Machula, he plays a cello made by luthier Francesco Ruggieri in Cremona, Italy, circa 1670.

Nemmers Prize

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 a significant impact on contemporary 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 the 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).

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