Musica nova Helsinki presents the latest contemporary music from all over the world

Press release, November 19, 2014
Musica nova Helsinki, February 6–14, 2015

Musica nova Helsinki, Finland’s biggest festival of contemporary music, will run in 2015 from February 6 to 14. The theme for 2015 is Dialogues: between composers and performers, generations and genres. The repertoire is a survey of contemporary music from around the world today: the majority of the works have been written since 2000. The programme also takes in a record number of free events. The Composers-in-Residence are Pascal Dusapin from France, Hans Abrahamsen from Denmark and Fred Lerdahl from the USA.

“The festival will be bringing to Helsinki both established composers and rising young talents,” says the festival’s Artistic Director Anssi Karttunen. “It will feature dialogue between composers and performers, and themes that span generations. There will be a number of teacher-pupil partnerships, and many of the works will be either premiered, or performed by their premiere artists. Some of the composers will further occupy a dual role on the programme, as performers, teachers or speakers.”

The opening concert will introduce the festival themes and two of the Composers-in-Residence: Pascal Dusapin and Hans Abrahamsen. Some of the performers have more than one role: John Storgårds, for example, is both conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and a violinist, while Canadian Barbara Hannigan – one of the most illustrious singers in the world today – will appear as both soloist and conductor. The concert will also include the premiere of a work commissioned from the festival’s youngest composer, Louis Chiapetta (b. 1989).

Also throwing light on the theme is the Creative Dialogue concert on the second day of the festival. Workshops under the same heading have been held since 2008. Their aim is to foster creative dialogue between young performers and composers that will benefit and inspire both parties and the field of music in general. The leaders of this workshop to be held just before the festival will be Kaija Saariaho, Anssi Karttunen and pianist Tuija Hakkila. The participants have been invited from top conservatories in Europe and the United States.

Kaija Saariaho will have the dual role of teacher and composer at Creative Dialogue. At the concert, instrumentalist workshoppers will perform music by the workshop’s composer students and Kaija Saariaho. This concert is free.

Visiting Finland for the first time for the evening concert on the second day will be the award-winning Boulanger Trio from Germany. Engaging in dialogue in the repertoire of this ensemble formed in 2006 will be teacher-pupil partners Michael Jarrell and Johannes Maria Staud, and two composers representing both extremes of the present generation: Elliott Carter (1908–2012) and Sean Shepherd (b. 1979). Continents will also be crossed in the programme of American, European and Japanese works.

Contemporary Finnish

The concert by the Zagros Ensemble will pay tribute to one of the leading names in contemporary Finnish music: Jukka Tiensuu. It will concentrate on some of his most recent works, composed this century.

Another leading Finnish ensemble, Uusinta, can be heard on Wednesday, February 11. Magnus Lindberg will conduct works by his friends Dusapin and Fred Lerdahl, along with the premiere of an oboe quintet by Riikka Talvitie. The soloist at this concert will be Nicolas Hodges, piano.

The defunensemble, notorious for shaking up the contemporary Finnish music scene, will be holding a club evening, playing works with electronics by composers of the youngest generation. They will also be highlighting some of the latest musical trends in Finland, the United States and Denmark.

Dialogue across generic borders

Young composers from the Korvat auki (Ears Open) association will be joining in cross-generic partnership with lighting students from the Lighting and Sound Design Department of the Theatre Academy Helsinki to create an audio-visual cross-section of the artistic visions of the youngest generation.

Generic borders will also be crossed on the closing day of the festival, February 14. In Cifra 3 by Argentinian choreographer Diana Theocharidis, dance, music, image and space engage in mutual dialogue. Cifra 3 also presents two premieres, by Portuguese Vasco Mendonça and Argentinian Pablo Ortiz.

The closing concert is devoted to composers’ dialogue with time, space and philosophy as interpreted by Avanti! and the Helsinki Chamber Choir: the text of the work by Wolfgang Rihm is by Friedrich Nietzsche, while Hans Abrahamsen addresses the problem of question and answer in a giant composition called Schnee.

Record number of free events

Musica nova Helsinki also offers children a chance to explore the world of contemporary music. Korvat auki is putting on a free family day at Bokvillan in the Arabia district of town at which youngsters can try out instruments and make music of their own.

The free Guitar Electronics concert by one of Finland’s top instrumentalists, Timo Korhonen, presents two premieres, of works by Lauri Supponen and Markku Klami. All the works use technology to create different acoustic spaces in the Black Box at the Helsinki Music Centre.

The festival recitals will spread outside the concert halls to such venues as Helsinki City Hall and the Espoo Museum of Modern Art (EMMA). The recitalists will be Finnish pianists Joonas Ahonen and Tuija Hakkila, Portuguese wizard percussionist Pedro Carneiro and Austrian violinist Ernst Kovacic.

The NYKY Ensemble confines itself to the piano in an evening concert curated by Joonas Ahonen. Students at the Sibelius Academy will play Etudes composed in the past 15 years. Admission is free to both the recitals and the NYKY concerts.

Also on the earlier-announced programme are concerts by the festival’s main organisers, the Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Finnish National Opera, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Klang concert series.


The programme for the festival will further include talks and meetings with artists. Details of these will be regularly updated at

Tickets for Musica nova Helsinki events can be purchased at Lippupiste or Lippupalvelu. For details, see

Further info, press photos and accreditation:
Saara Oranen & Terhi Aaen,, tel. +358-44-5661903

The main organisers of Musica nova Helsinki are the Helsinki Festival, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sibelius Academy, the Finnish National Opera, the Tapiola Sinfonietta and the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle).


Hans Abrahamsen

Schnee (2008) by Danish Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1952) ranks as one of this century’s greatest compositions. Abrahamsen studied music history, theory and the French horn at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen and at the same time composition privately with Per Nørgård, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and György Ligeti. He is known as a composer who renews his style from one work to the next. He began composing at the age of 16 and his works are highly original, many of them existing in several versions for different ensembles. Apart from the song cycle let me tell you, almost all his music is instrumental: for orchestra or chamber ensemble. Hans Abrahamsen received the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1989 and the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize in 1998.

Pascal Dusapin

Pascal Dusapin (b. 1955) comes from France and is one of the most notable and most highly-acclaimed composers in the world today. He studied architecture and is also a distinguished photographer. As a composer he has been influenced greatly by Iannis Xenakis, but in principle he is self-taught. His music may be described as both lyrical and powerfully emotional. His extensive output includes vocal, orchestral and chamber music, operas, and nine instrumental concertos. The winner of many prizes and awards, he has worked across genres with a number of celebrated artists, such as choreographer Sasha Waltz, contemporary artist James Turrell and, in music, Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

Fred Lerdahl

US composer Fred Lerdahl (b. 1943) is greatly esteemed for his original harmonic syntaxes and formal processes, presented with elegant craftsmanship and expressive depth. His music is indebted to the past yet committed to the exploration of new territory. Works have been commissioned from him by, among others, the Juilliard String Quartet and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and have been performed by the world’s best-known orchestras and ensembles. He has been Composer-in-Residence at many international festivals and lectured at the most prestigious universities and institutions. Fred Lerdahl has been Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, New York since 1981. He is also a prolific writer, especially on the cognitive science of music. In 2010 he was honoured with membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Three of his works composed since 2000 – Time after Time for chamber ensemble, the Third String Quartet, and Arches for cello and chamber orchestra – have been shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize in music.