Aulis Sallinen: Andrew Mellor Salutes the Finnish Composer, Recently Turned 80, Who Discovered a Wholly Distinctive Voice and Ignited the Country's Opera Boom

By Mellor, Andrew | Gramophone, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Aulis Sallinen: Andrew Mellor Salutes the Finnish Composer, Recently Turned 80, Who Discovered a Wholly Distinctive Voice and Ignited the Country's Opera Boom


Mellor, Andrew, Gramophone


The writing, so to speak, was on the wall. A young arts administrator was travelling with his orchestra in Cologne in 1962 when a man was shot at the Berlin Wall by East German border guards. Saddened and furious, the administrator wrote a 10-minute orchestral work for which he reached for the nearest utilitarian tide: Mauermusik ('Wall Music'). When asked about the resulting piece, the administrator didn't hold back. 'It is an orchestral elegy to the insane circumstances which allow human beings to be officially killed at the very heart of European culture,' he said. 'It is an elegy to the cries of a dying youth which ring out from the Berlin Wall to a world calling itself civilised.' The administrator was Aulis Sallinen, two years into a 10-year stint in the back room of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, but well into the stride of those simple, plain-speaking convictions that would characterise his outlook and his music for the next 50 years (and still do). You hear Sallinen and immediately the idealistic bunfight of 20th-century music fades away. You hear Sallinen and you know, somehow, that the music just is--however different it might seem from his last piece you heard, however surprising or spare, lyrical or mechanical. You hear Sallinen and, more often than not, you're locked in--ensnared by a musical hook much the same way as you are from the first 'da da da daaaa' of Beethoven's Fifth.

Mauermusik came at a critical time for the composer, who was born in 1935 on the shores of Lake Ladoga, the district of Karelia lost by Finland to the Soviet Union less than a decade later. It was the score that brought him to international attention and probably sounded the death knell for his desk job at the orchestra--and it was Helsinki's 'other' symphony orchestra, the Philharmonic, which gave its first performance in 1964, under Ulf Soderblom. But Mauermusik also arrived just as a handful of Finnish composers--Rautavaara, Kokkonen, Marttinen--were turning back to tonality with an unbridled sense of joy and excitement. Some claim the piece signals the more simple, personal, emotional style on which Sallinen would build his career; others describe it as the culmination of his short-lived modernist phase. In truth you can hear both: the immediate 'hook' of the searching, stuttering opening idea built on a single note; and the surrounding musical fog formed of ambiguous, modernist harmonies that would soon dissipate in Sallinen's scores altogether.

In 1970, Sallinen quit his admin job and started to compose full-time. As a parting gesture, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra commissioned a symphony from its former employee for the opening of Alvar Aalto's new Finlandia Hall in Helsinki in 1971. Before that, the orchestra's Chief Conductor Paavo Berglund had ordered another orchestral work from Sallinen, advising him to write for wind, brass and percussion and avoid strings (clearly Berglund already had an idea about Finlandia Hall's problematic acoustics). The composer duly delivered Chorali (1970) taking Berglund's advice; one critic wrote of the 'thin string tone' when he heard the symphony broadcast on the radio. As Sallinen recalled in 2004 when CPO launched a new recorded cycle of his orchestral works, 'Building blocks are grouped together in different ways in Chorali: in succession, interlocked, superimposed ... and they create counterpoint in the listener's memory ... Might this have been the start of the mosaic technique that I used later?'

Perhaps. And as with the very best musical craftsmen, Sallinen's priorities remained thus--music built of minimal, often simple means viewed with endless potential. He has compared his use of 'motif centres' with throwing a stone into water: 'Rings form and spread out; thus the stone influences everything that surrounds it.' As his colleague Kalevi Aho writes, 'Sallinen's conception of a symphony does not entail a symphonic progression towards some final destination . …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Aulis Sallinen: Andrew Mellor Salutes the Finnish Composer, Recently Turned 80, Who Discovered a Wholly Distinctive Voice and Ignited the Country's Opera Boom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.