Contemporary Composers & Musicians from Finland

Get to know the most essential contemporary composers and musicians from our playlist, available on Spotify and Apple Music. 

Scroll down for all the composers' biographies and links.

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Alex Freeman

Alex Freeman (b. 28 April 1972) grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. Around the age of 13 he became interested in composing. He moved to Helsinki in 2001 to research Sibelius's sketches and study composition with Eero Hämeenniemi at the Sibelius Academy. He was also a student of Jouni Kaipainen and Magnus Lindberg. He taught at Carleton College from 2007 to 2014. Dr. Freeman is currently composing full-time and lives with his wife and children in Finland.

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Antti Auvinen

Antti Auvinen is a composer with a particular interest in timbre and rhythm. The majority of his output is chamber music scored for unusual ensembles, an example being Orior (2012), written for the Atlas Ensemble that brings together instruments from all around the world. “Using polyrhythmic and polypulsational effects, he creates an impression of musical direction in his works,” writes Jouko Laaksamo. “Although Auvinen takes a Modernist attitude towards composition, he does not neglect emotional tensions, which play a very important part in his music.”

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Sauli Zinovjev

Since graduating from the Sibelius-Academy Sauli Zinovjev has been focusing mainly on orchestral music with commissions and performances by distinguished orchestras such as the Finnish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra de Chambre de Lausanne and most important Finnish orchestras in collaboration with some of the frontline conductors and soloists such as Klaus Mäkelä and Pekka Kuusisto. At the moment Zinovjev is composing a Piano Concerto for pianist Vikingur Olafsson commissioned by Finnish and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras to be premiered in 2020. Zinovjev composes music that conveys vast emotions. He uses classical music to make his view of the world intelligible. To convey it – life – to others.

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Petri Kumela

Petri Kumela, one of Finland’s most versatile and sought-after classical guitarists, is equally at home with period instruments as in working with contemporary composers. He is also one of the Finnish guitarists best known on the international scene, with a reputation for originality and versatility, whether he is giving a recital in Calcutta or a school concert in Japan, or motorising guitars in Mexico.

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Kalevi Aho

Kalevi Aho is one of Finland’s most well-known composers. Much of Aho’s symphonic output is the result of years of close collaboration with Sinfonia Lahti. Aho is a master of multiple classical and contemporary genres who in the course of his career has gone from Shostakovich-tinted Neo-Classicism towards Modernism, Post-Modernism and free tonality, combining these in a highly original idiom. Besides being a prolific composer, he is an influential figure on the Finnish musical scene in many other ways too.

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Outi Tarkiainen

Outi Tarkiainen is a composer who has one foot in the Modernist camp and one in the jazz camp. Several of her works exhibit, in a deeply instinctive way, an organic, innovative dialogue between these two traditions – an example being the title work of her acclaimed disc “Into the Woodland Silence”. Tarkiainen’s music is frequently performed abroad and has been dubbed to draw on the immensity of the northern natural environment. Her saxophone concerto Saivo was nominated for the 2018 Nordic Council Music Prize. In 2019 the BBC Philharmonic and the National Arts Centre Orchestra from Canada commissioned her to write an orchestral work for the BBC Proms Festival.

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Magnus Lindberg

Magnus Lindberg is one of Finland’s internationally most celebrated contemporary composers, whose works are regularly performed by the world’s leading musical institutions. He has progressed from his early Modernism towards a more human idiom, defining a new classical Modernism. Harmony, tonal colour, texture and rhythm are important elements in his music; recently, melody has grown in importance. Lindberg is above all a master of the orchestra, and he has also written a considerable body of chamber music. His persona combines a rational technology buff (who experimented with computers at a very early stage) with a practical musician. He himself plays the piano, and he sometimes also conducts his own works.

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Osmo Tapio Räihälä

Osmo Tapio Räihälä is a Finnish composer of art music. His output focuses mostly on instrumental music: he has written several works for the symphony orchestra, concertos, chamber music and solo works. In 1998, he formed the Uusinta Ensemble, which has premiered many of his works. He has been commissoned and/or performed by the likes of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gewandhaus, London Sinfonietta, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, Nuova consonanza, Virtuosi di Kuhmo, Helsinki Chamber Choir, nearly all Finnish orchestras, major festivals and musicians – but the most important performance is always the next one. His music is published by Sikorski Musikverlag.

Uljas Pulkkis

Uljas Pulkkis won competitions and acquired a reputation at an early age. “His idiom has clearly struck a nerve: it is a blend of so many influences that no one feels it is completely alien. At the same time, however, this blend is whipped up so that the music outright sparkles with freshness,” writes Osmo Tapio Räihälä. Pulkkis has employed a large orchestra boldly and colourfully from the very first. From the effective use of spectral harmonies, his style has progressed into new dimensions, often acquiring a strong programmatic element. He is a prolific composer with a penchant for things as varied as Renaissance polyphony and Richard Wagner.

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Elifantree

Elifantree is enigmatic, unnerving and wonderfully unpredictable and can move from dreamscapes to fever sweats within the same bar. The trio makes music using the framework of jazz, but usually trek well outside of it. With dazzling vocals, outstanding saxophonism, strong rhythmical textures and ambient soundscapes they create a sound much larger and wider than the sum of their parts and have over the years opened up mystical doors in the territory of experimental and improvised music. The Helsinki-based trailblazing experimental trio was formed in 2007. With strong rhythmical textures, tenor saxophone, ambient soundscapes and dazzling vocals they create a sound much larger and wider than the sum of their parts.

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Tuomas Turriago

Composer, pianist and conductor Tuomas Turriago (b.1979) is known especially as an experienced chamber musician and chamber music composer. He is an active advocate of contemporary music, both as a composer and as a pianist, as well as a regular conductor of the contemporary music ensemble TampereRaw, which collaboration has lasted for 8 years. As a composer, his style is marked by a tasteful combination of different 20th century idioms, but his aim is to compose timeless and player-friendly music that is not too closely associated to any isms.

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Juha Leinonen

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho is one of Finland’s internationally best known contemporary composers. She gained world fame in the 2000s with her original and immediately recognisable style that has evolved slowly but surely over the years. She focused on tonal colour at an early date. Electronics and new technology have also been part of her musical makeup for quite some time; she found an important base in the Ircam studios in Paris, her city of residence since 1982. Melody took prominence in her work in the early 1990s and rhythm in the early 2000s.

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Perttu Haapanen

Perttu Haapanen is a Modernist, but his idiom is like a refreshing typhoon within that style. “Like a true Modernist, he has sought and explored the bounds of his idiom in diverse ways, even though his works are always carefully considered and polished,” writes Kimmo Korhonen. His output is diverse, and many of his works are tinged with an original sense of humor in their sounds and for instance in the invented languages of his vocal works.

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Maija Hynninen

Maija Hynninen (b. 1977) – composer and sound artist – incorporates in her work the human voice, live electronics and multidisciplinary performances. Hynninen writes virtuoso parts for the musicians yet captures a sence of lightness of texture. The music is often governed by linear thinking while the harmony gravitates towards quartertones. The textures combine noise and pitch which result in ambiguity of timbre. Her future works include chamber and orchestral music as well as works for soloist or small ensemble and live electronics.

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Meriheini Luoto

Meriheini Luoto, a 2016 graduate of Sibelius Academy, is an artist and composer who explores sound as a comprehensive phenomenon with violin, nyckelharpa, vocals, and electronics as her instruments of choice. Meriheini finds inspiration for her particular sound in several musical styles including experimental music, sonic arts, and Nordic folk music.

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Pehr Henrik Nordgren

Pehr Henrik Nordgren's (1944–2008) music is not an abstract play of notes; it is full of a strong need for expression that seems to well up from the deepest and most tragic abysses of life. Nordgren has used a variety of techniques to convey these feelings — dodecaphony, Ligetian field technique, aleatoric counterpoint, free-tonality, minimalism, and Finnish and Japanese folk music. Sometimes the shifts between elements are deliberately abrupt; at other times, the elements are blended into one another.

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Ilari Hylkilä

Ilari Hylkilä's music is often described with the word "cinematic". His works range from symphony orchestra and sinfonietta to wind bands, from chamber ensembles to a cappella group, from big band to folk music group. Most of his music is commissioned concert music used in many audiovisual productions and events. Hylkilä's music has been performed in many big festivals such as Basel Tattoo, Avenches Tattoo, Sweden International Tattoo and Hamina Tattoo.

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defunensemble

“Finland’s only electroacoustic ensemble” is how defunensemble describes itself. Electroacoustic here refers to a tradition of splicing electronics into contemporary classical or ‘art music’, launched in the ‘50s and ‘60s by the likes of Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, and extended by Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Pierre Boulez – all of whom are included in defunensemble’s repertoire. The nine-member group also play spiky, challenging works by Finland’s Magnus Lindberg and other contemporary composers associated with IRCAM, an electroacoustic think-tank in Paris.

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Leif Segerstam

Leif Segerstam is a multitalented musician who has developed full careers in both conducting and composing. He has developed his own style of composing that he calls "free-pulsative", where the precise temporal relations between the parts of the musicians involved are not exactly determined. Segerstam is known as an incredibly prolific composer who may be inspired to write a dozen symphonies a year - there are already several hundred of them! "Segerstam does not so much create independent works as strands from the same musical flow of consciousness," notes Mikko Heiniö.

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Aulis Sallinen

Aulis Sallinen is a respected maestro whose successful composing career has already spanned half a century. “A strong tonal stamp, simple thematic formulas, clarity of formal construction, and above all a use of repetition which pervades every level of the music – these are Sallinen’s main stylistic traits in a nutshell,” writes Mikko Heiniö. Sallinen's output features a lot of instrumental music, including chamber music, concertos and eight symphonies. But he is best known for his operas. Ratsumies (The Horseman, 1975) was the work that launched the great Finnish opera boom, and since then he has written numerous works for the stage, from light-hearted musical theatre to grand tragedy.

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Sebastian Fagerlund

Sebastian Fagerlund has rapidly become one of the most successful composers of his generation. His style is robust and easily identifiable, a combination of spiky rhythms and long, meditative arcs. His principal works include the Clarinet Concerto (2006), after which his career properly took off. In 2011, he received the Teosto Prize for Ignite for symphony orchestra.

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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen is not only an internationally celebrated conductor but also a significant composer. Being a conductor, he has excellent command of writing for both large and small orchestra in a way that is gratifying for the musicians. His orchestral works include his greatest successes. Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. In 2015 he addressed the Apple Distinguished Educator conference on the uses of technology in music education, and his Violin Concerto was featured in an international campaign for iPad. Salonen is currently the Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor for the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009.

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Matthew Whittall

Born in Canada, Matthew Whittall found his way to Finland in search of musical freedom and nature. The natural environment is a scarlet thread in his output, which includes a massive collection of piano preludes entitled Leaves of Grass after the poetry collection by Walt Whitman. His artistically oriented doctorate was on the idea of nature in Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde. “Accessible without being banal” was the verdict on his musical idiom when in 2013 he received the distinguished Teosto Prize for his work Dulcissima clara sonans, based on the visions of Hildegard of Bingen.

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