In memoriam: Paavo Heininen 1938 – 2022

January 19th 2022 brought us the news about the passing of major Finnish contemporary composer Paavo Heininen at the age of 84 years. Heininen was known both as one of the leading contemporary composers from Finland, and as a composing teacher. His extensive catalogue includes six symphonies, two operas, several concertos and a vast collection of other works.

Paavo Heininen has often been called the grand old man of Finnish Modernism. While many other composers have migrated from Modernism to other musical landscapes, Heininen has remained true to the ideals of Modernism. His extensive output, spanning five decades, includes examples of uncompromising dodecaphony and Modernism but also stylised and even Neo-Classical works.

“Heininen’s music is often thoroughly complex but betrays an underlying joy of living and an impish sense of humour. [...] The complexity seems not an end itself but simply a vehicle of expression,” writes Wilhelm Kvist in Hufvudstadsbladet.

Heininen studied musicology at the University of Helsinki and piano and composition at the Sibelius Academy. He was taught composition by Aarre Merikanto, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Einar Englund and Joonas Kokkonen. After graduating with a degree in composition in 1960, he continued his studies in Cologne and the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York.

Paavo Heininen has been hugely influential as a teacher. He was first hired as a teacher at the Sibelius Academy already in 1962. The majority of Finland’s later generations of composers studied with him while he was Professor of Composition at the Sibelius Academy from 1993 to 2001, teaching students such as Jukka Tiensuu, Veli-Matti Puumala, Jouni Kaipainen, Kaija Saariaho and Magnus Lindberg along the way.

Read Heininen's epitaph from Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish).

Browse Paavo Heininen's works at Music Finland's core website.

Last week, Finland also lost composer Herman Rechberger, at 74 years, as well as composer and cantor Jouko Linjama at the age of 87.