On Thursday evening, the School of Music featured world-renowned Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s “Serenatas and Terrestre” in Sprague Hall.
Wrapping up this year’s New Music New Haven concert series, which showcases original works by students and visiting composers, the performance included works written by five students in the school’s composition program in addition to Saariaho’s piece.
“She is very well known in the new music world,” said Justin Tierney MUS ’12, who composed and performed “Escritura del Dios.” “Her music is incredibly colorful and evocative.”
Music professor Christopher Theofanidis, the artistic director of New Music New Haven, explained that he was able to invite Saariaho to New Haven because she had temporarily left her home in Paris for a year-long residency at Carnegie Hall. In addition to Thursday night’s performance, Saariaho met with graduate students and attended professor Katheryn Alexander’s undergraduate composition seminar.
Theofanidis said that bringing in award-winning composers like Saariaho means a lot to the students studying music at Yale, as it allows them to personally interact with their favorite composers and become exposed to different aesthetics of music.
“Students can have a direct exposure to different ways of thinking, just like Saariaho,” he added.
Thursday’s concert is the seventh and final New Music New Haven concert of the year, following a guest performance by Steve Reich, a pioneer in minimalist music, on March 29.
Daniel Schlosberg MUS ’13, whose composition “Once” was featured in Thursday’s concert, said that he was excited to have his work aired in the forum.
“To be honest, I’ve been looking forward to this concert since the beginning of the year,” he said. “I’m thrilled to have my music played alongside Saariaho’s.
Written for violin and viola, “Once” treats the two instruments as different characters, Schlosberg said, adding that the music is driven by the narrative of their evolving relationship. The music takes a dramatic form, with “ups, downs, echoes [and] reflections,” he said.
Tierney also imagined a storyline to his work, “Escritura del Dios,” explaining that the piece was inspired by a story by Jorge Luis Borges about an imprisoned Aztec mystic struggling to divine the word of God.
Stephen Feigenbaum ’12 MUS ’13 said he aimed to explore a reversal of traditional instrumental roles in his Sonata for double bass and piano.
“My composition is a suite for bass and piano,” Feigenbaum said. “Bass is usually just there to play the bass line, so I wanted to see what would happen if the bass was playing the melody, and sharing an equal role in the music with the piano.”
Saariaho has claimed major awards for composition such as the Grawemeyer Award, the Wihouri Prize, the Nemmers Prize and, in 2011, the Sonning Prize.