Biography

Outi TARKIAINEN

© Sigel Eschkol

 

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, which 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 2017 her music has been published by Edition Wilhelm Hansen. 

Since her student days, Outi has been drawn to the expressive power and natural truths of the human voice. 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, and was recorded for Fredriksson Music. More recently, 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.

Outi has composed vocal, chamber and solo instrumental works as well as works for orchestra and soloist. In September 2016, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, conductor John Storgårds and mezzo-soprano Virpi Räisänen gave the first performance of her biggest work to date, an 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. In 2017, Outi was composer-in-residence at the Norrbotten Big Band, resulting in the Prophone Records album Unpainted Portraits (2018).

Outi has worked with ensembles including the Norrbotten Chamber Orchestra, the Lapland Chamber Orchestra, the Arctic Philharmonic, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfoinetta, the Uusinta Ensemble, the Zagros Ensemble, the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Henry Mancini Institute Chamber Orchestra, the Slovenian Radio Big Band, the Norrbotten Big Band, the Umo Jazz Orchestra and the Metropole Orchestra. She won First Prize in the International Jazzverk Big Band Composition Competition in Sweden in 2008 with her piece Oglütz. 

Outi has also worked with some of the most distinguished conductors and musicians in the Nordic region and beyond. She has collaborated with jazz legends David Liebman, Randy Brecker, Conrad Herwig, Peter Erskine and Dick Oatts. Her music has been heard in cities from Tallinn to Tokyo. In 2015 Outi was 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. That longing was satisfied during her co-artistic directorship of the annual Silence Festival in Lapland from 2014-18, and more recently by her move to the far northern town of Ivalo, 300km north of Rovaniemi. It continues to find expression in her music’s fascinating mix of beauty and brutality, of richness and sparseness. 

Andrew Mellor, 2019

 

© Sigel Eschkol

TITLE_OEUVRES

" Midnight Sun Variations (2019) "

Pour orchestre

Editions Wilhelm Hansen

“It is not our fault if, in your country, dream and reality are so closely bound together that one cannot well distinguish one from the other.” – Robert Crottet on the land of the Lappish Skolts (Fôrets de la lune, 1949)

Midnight Sun Variations for orchestra is about the light in the arctic summer night, when the northern sky above the Arctic Circle reflects a rich spectrum of infinitely-nuanced hues that, as autumn draws near, are once again veiled in darkness; when Europe’s biggest and most unpolluted wildernesses, the tundra and dense coniferous forests mystified by Jean Sibelius in his last large-scale work, Tapiola (1926), are bathed in countless shades of light.

The work begins with a sparkling ray of sunshine: the orchestra radiates and rises, playfully traces its round and goes back to the beginning again. Solitary wind solos soar above the orchestra, softly proclaiming the peace of the summer night to answering sighs from a horn. A new beginning finally emerges in the strings: a chord beating with rugged primitive force that fills the whole space with its warmth. This sets off a pulse of constantly remixing chords that ultimately fires the whole orchestra into action, until the strings break away, ascend to the heights and impart maybe the most important message of all.

My first child was born on just such a night, as the summer’s last warm day gave way to a dawn shrouded in autumnal mist, in a flash wiping away a whole season. Midnight Sun Variations is also about the opening of a woman’s body to accommodate a new life, about giving birth, when the woman and the child within her part company, restoring her former self as the light fades into autumn. The work was commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic and The National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada and is dedicated to John Storgårds.

Outi Tarkiainen

Translated in English by Susan Sinisalo