Kaija Saariaho voted greatest living composer by BBC Music Magazine

Today’s leading composers say Kaija Saariaho is the greatest living composer in the world. The survey, conducted by BBC Music Magazine, was taken by 174 of today's top composers.

According to BBC Music Magazine's recent poll, Kaija Saariaho is the greatest living composer in the world. While J.S. Bach was voted the greatest of all time, Saariaho's 17th position ranks her highest among living composers. In the top 20 there was also another famed Finnish composer: Jean Sibelius ranked high in the list, making it to the 12th position.

The top 50 list was compiled by 174 present-day composers, who were asked to name five of the greatest composers throughout history, according to four main criteria: originality, impact, craftsmanship and enjoyability. 

"Kaija Saariaho is one of the monumental composers of our time. There are so many wonderful things that can be said about her music, especially her great pieces for larger forces – many of which are personal favorites. In addition I feel that the powerful presence of her music over the years has been particularly important as a role model for younger generations, not least for younger women in music that find inspiration and encouragement in such a compelling composer. This multifaceted influence will, without doubt, carry on shape the music of the future" explains Iceland-based composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir Saariaho's significance in the magazine.

Finnish composers taking part in the vote were Kalevi Aho (who voted BachBeethovenBrahmsMozart and Wagner), Sebastian Fagerlund (choosing BeethovenLutosławskiMonteverdiSchönberg and Stravinsky), Magnus Lindberg (whose votes went to BeethovenDutilleuxRavelStockhausen and Stravinsky) and Outi Tarkiainen (the only Finn to vote Saariaho and Sibelius, alongside Debussy, Bach and Alban Berg). The resulting top 50 list can be found on BBC Music Magazine's December 2019 issue.

Read Kaija Saariaho's recent column on FMQ's "On my music and beyond" writing series.