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Kaija Saariaho awarded for “extraordinary” musical contribution

The jury lauded Saariaho’s music for having “a unique quality that is almost as visual as it is sonorous”.Screenshot/saariaho.org

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho has received the BBVA Foundation’s Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Contemporary Music category.

The high musical honour was awarded to the Paris-based Finn on the basis of “a contribution to contemporary music that is extraordinary in its individuality, breadth and scope”.

The jury in the Contemporary Music category, chaired by Nicholas Cook, emeritus professor of Music at the University of Cambridge, further stated that from her earliest work Saariaho has exhibited, “a seamless interweaving of the worlds of acoustic music and technology.”

Saariaho began studying music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and in 1982 she moved to Paris where she continued her training at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). Her first opera, L’Amour de loin, took her eight years to finish and was met with worldwide acclaim.

According to Saariaho, her Finnish roots have been a major influence to her music. “Coming from Finland of course has made me more sensitive to nature,” she explains. “And this has a lot to do with the acoustics… The forest is like a church.”

The prize for each laureate across the different categories awarded is a commemorative artwork, a diploma and a cash prize of 400 000 euros. Previous laureates in the Contemporary Music category include Pierre BoulezSteve Reich and Sofia Gubaidulina.

This year marks the 10th edition of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards that recognise outstanding contributions across a range of scientific, technological and artistic areas.

Published on 22.02.2018