Composer in Residence

Outi Tarkiainen

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Outi Tarkiainen is one of a new generation of composers whose work bears intense 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’, Outi has said, ‘that can flood over a person and even change entire destinies.’

Outi was born in Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland, a place 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 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 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 Sinfonietta, 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

“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)

“Our fastest-rising contemporary composer” (Finnish Broadcasting Company 10/2017)

“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)

[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)

“In the premiere of Obsession II, Outi Tarkiainen showed her talents as a musical narrator.” (Helsingin Sanomat 3/2013)

“Outi Tarkiainen’s wind quintet revealed her incisively playful sense of rhythm.” (Helsingin Sanomat 6/2013)

[In orchestral work Liebklinge] there was a beautiful gesture to free a trio of violins and the clarinet duo to explore the concert hall while playing.” (Helsingin Sanomat 2/2012)