Works performed by Earplay:

Je sens un duxième coeur
Light and Matter

Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) is not only among the most important Finnish composers of her time, but must be ranked as one of the leading composers of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries.

In 1976, she began composition studies at the Sibelius Academy with Paavo Heininen. She obtained a degree in composition from the academy in 1980, but continued studies there for another year. Afterward, she enrolled at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg, Germany, to study with British composer Brian Ferneyhough and Germany’s Klaus Huber.

In the mid-1980s, Saariaho’s works began garnering much attention and she received many prestigious awards, such as the Kranichsteiner Prize in 1986, the Prix Italia in 1988, and the following year the Ars Electronica for her works Stilleben (1987-1988) and Io (1986-1987). She also attracted several impressive commissions, including one from the Lincoln Center, which resulted in the chamber work Nymphea (1987), which was premiered by the Kronos Quartet. By the early 1990s, her music was beginning to appear with greater frequency on the concert stage and with some regularity on record labels. Saariaho had become one of the few composers to write in a modern, though not particularly dissonant, style who has achieved a good measure of popularity.

— excerpted from Robert Cummings