19, December 2014

Kaija Saariaho is the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award judge


Kaija Saariaho is the judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award 2015. She has chosen the following 4 orchestral works out of 151 entries from 44 countries eligibly accepted by 30 September 2014. Screening was done with the anonymous scores having only their titles. These four nominated works will be performed on 31 May 2015 at the Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall: Takemitsu Memorial for Kaija Saariaho’s final judgement.

Thomas Wally (Austria)
loop-fantasy for orchestra

Fabià Santcovsky (Spain)
cuadro de presencia for orchestra

Sebastian Hilli (Finland)
Reachings for orchestra

Yiğit Kolat (Turkey)
[difeʁãs] for orchestra

“To study carefully 151 orchestral scores has been a tiring but stimulating process. It has been also intriguing to observe that several new, now globally accepted notation traditions and compositional methods have been installed in the works of the new generations. I was happy to learn that many young composers are actively looking for personal and fresh ways of musical expression.

Extended instrumental techniques are a common object of interest among these works, as are graphic notation and aleatoric possibilities. Another recurring aspect seems to be the aim to reorganize the orchestral instruments in several groups on the stage or in the hall, sometimes around the audience.
I could notice also that a large number of composers were interested in narrativity, and their works had as a source of inspiration, a story or legend, or at least a metaphor – and the resulting music was then more or less audibly connected to the program comment given by the composer.

After having read all the pieces through, I kept two different groups of scores for further study; nine pieces convinced me during the first reading, and I put them aside, being certain that some of them would remain in my final selection – and in the end three out of four final pieces come from this group.
Then I chose more possible candidates from the remaining scores, altogether 27, and studied them again. Among those I found some further candidates to be compared with the first selection.

To eliminate scores, as I have done now – most of them presenting much talent, hope and hard work – was the most difficult part of my task. I hope that many more than the four pieces I have chosen will be performed soon and shared with attentive audience, as there were many interesting works, even if the level of technical realization varied much.

The principles set by Tokyo Opera City, “Prayer, Hope and Peace”, were in my mind in an abstract sense; these principles reaffirmed my own convictions and guided me in finding works that mirror composer’s most sincere reflections on music, and more largely life.

The following four works stayed in the end on my table, for the reasons I’ll try explain shortly below. The pieces are here in alphabetical order concerning the titles.

cuadro de presencia
This is a project with plenty of intriguing, carefully considered details concerning micro tonality and extended instrumental techniques, here realistic what comes to the performance, unlike many other microtonal ideas. The instrumental writing is inventive, and the alteration of the orchestral families keeps the intensity of the music vivid. I also like the daring manner the composer introduces silence in the work, not to interrupt the music, but to continue it inaudibly, and I remain curious to hear the musical flow in a concert.

Since the first reading, I am impressed by the poetry and unusual formal solution of this piece, both of which are touching and convincing. The piece is a sonic voyage, and the very slow tempo markings escape the usual sense of a measured musical time. This work is deeply original and has quiet, confident intensity. I admire the radical but logic formal solution, and feel that behind the rigorous score hides a multisensory universe, which I am looking forward to experience.

When reading this work I was captivated by the energy of the music. The piece has freshness and eagerness to move, and it has a target. Here operating in fast tempi – with markings like “poco piu mosso (if possible)” – testing the limits of the musicians – combined with a traditionally demanding instrumental writing create a presence of exciting physical energy.

I got interested in this work because of its determined sense of formal plan and its realization. An intense concentration is carrying the music through the work. The music has an urge to advance, but it is done under a control so that the musical energy is well balanced, and the music breathes naturally. The orchestration is effective throughout and the score enjoyable to read in its clarity.

I thank the Tokyo Opera City Cultural Foundation for all the organization and help concerning the conditions of my work as a jury, and I look forward in meeting all the finalists in Tokyo and hearing their music.”

In Paris, December 7th, 2014
Kaija Saariaho