Outi Tarkiainen’s orchestral Midnight Sun Variations nominated for the Music Composition Prize of the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco
Published on August 2, 2021
New release: The Earth, Spring's Daughter / Saivo
Published on August 7, 2020
Orchestral work by Outi Tarkiainen commissioned by BBC Philharmonic for this year’s Proms
Published on April 17, 2019
Outi Tarkiainen’s Saivo nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize
Published on June 1, 2018
Outi Tarkiainen signs to Edition Wilhelm Hansen
Published on June 21, 2017
Outi Tarkiainen is one of a new generation of composers whose work bears witness to the world around it and whose music engages audiences while advancing the art form without compromise. ‘I see music as a force of nature that can flood over a person and even change entire destinies,’ Outi has said.
Outi was born in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, a location that has proved a constant source of inspiration for her. She studied composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with Eero Hämeenniemi and Veli-Matti Puumala, at the University of Miami with Ron Miller and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Malcolm Singer.
Since her student days, Outi has been drawn to the expressive power and natural truths of the human voice. In September 2016, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, conductor John Storgårds and mezzo-soprano Virpi Räisänen gave the first performance of her orchestral song cycle to texts by Sami poets entitled The Earth, Spring’s Daughter (2015). The work’s structural finesse underlined the composer’s handling of large-scale forms while its pained lyricism revealed both her strong feelings about Sami emancipation and her love for the music of Alban Berg. May 2022 sees the world premiere of her first opera, commissioned and staged by Theater Hagen. A Room of One’s Own is based on the essay by Virginia Woolf and forms the latest in a series of works exploring womanhood, which also include the orchestral meditation on natural phenomena including childbirth, The Ring of Fire and Love (2020).
After making her name as a composer-conductor with some of Europe’s leading jazz orchestras, Outi collaborated with the Finnish vocalist Aili Ikonen on a series of jazz orchestra works including Into the Woodland Silence (2013), a score that combined the composer’s sense of natural mysticism with the distinctive textures of the jazz orchestra tradition. In the 2010s, she worked with some of Europe’s leading jazz orchestras including the Norrbotten Big Band, Umo Jazz Orchestra, Metropole Orchestra and the Slovenian Radio Big Band, all having won First Prize in the 2008 International Jazzverk Big Band Composition Competition with her piece Oglütz.
More recently, Outi has been commissioned by ensembles including the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, National Arts Center Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Finnish Radio Symphony and Iceland Symphony Orchestras while her works have been taken up by the St Louis Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Hagen Philharmonic, Houston Symphony and Vienna Tönkunstler. Her intense connection to the northernmost reaches of Finland was adumbrated in Songs of the Ice (2019) and its sister piece Midnight Sun Variations, the latter premiered at the BBC Proms in 2019 and subsequently performed around the world. The piece was nominated for the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monaco’s Musical Composition Prize.
Outi has composed vocal, chamber and solo instrumental works as well as works for orchestra and soloist. Her saxophone concerto Saivo (2016), written for the saxophonist Jukka Perko, explores ideas of duality and illusion in both the saxophone and in concerto form itself. It was nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize in 2018 and later issued on record, alongside The Earth, Spring’s Daughter, by Ondine.
Outi has worked with some of the most distinguished conductors and musicians in Europe and America and has been composer-in-residence at the Festival de Musique Classique d’Uzerche in France. Her heart, however, remains in the north. ‘I have a fundamental longing for the northernmost regions within me,’ she has said. She has been co-artistic director of the annual Silence Festival in Lapland and for a time lived in the far northern town of Ivalo, 300km north of Rovaniemi. The wilderness of Europe’s northernmost reaches continues to find expression in her music’s engrossing combination of beauty and brutality, of richness and sparseness.
"The classical canon isn’t replete with works about childbirth, probably for obvious reasons. So a welcome dawn shone on Outi Tarkiainen’s Midnight Sun Variations, inspired by the birth of the composer’s son. The piece is about light too: Tarkiainen lives in a remote village in Finnish Lapland and she was also inspired by the Arctic night when she went into labour, the last of the bright summer days fading to an autumn mist. It’s very beautiful, chains of shimmering percussion setting off a kind of twinkling relay contest, before bigger, thicker lines are drawn by the strings, pulsing almost like a Steve Reich soundscape. The expressive energy of the piece hides its intricate effects: Tarkiainen doesn’t get bogged down by details and her voice comes through strongly." (The Times 05/08/2019)
"The extreme quiet of the forest is perhaps the most beautiful silence there is. Sibelius knew that, and so does the ever fascinating Finnish composer Outi Tarkiainen, whose fusion of silence and music, as well as jazz and classical idioms, draws on her Lapland roots and on the mystery and melancholy of life in the north." (Gramophone 5/2017)
"Outi Tarkiainen’s saxophone concerto is a mature and inspiring work. Tarkiainen’s feel for colour is refined, and her handling of the orchestra is enchanting." (Helsingin Sanomat 11/2017)
"The saxophone concerto was marked by potent handling of the orchestra. […] The orchestra is clearly Tarkiainen’s most personal means of expression." (Rondo Classic 11/2017)
"Our fastest-rising contemporary composer" (Finnish Broadcasting Company 10/2017)
“[Into the Woodland Silence] is simply a haunting piece of music, where emotions stand in the front. Disharmonious and strong, difficult to resist.” (Norrbottens Kuriren 3/2015)