After Sibelius, who’s the most important Finnish composer?

After Sibelius, who’s the most important Finnish composer?


norman lebrecht

March 03, 2019

Details have been announced of a national museum of music to open in Helsinki this year.

Place of honour among composers goes, of course, to Jean Sibelius.

But the second composer to be featured in the permanent display is slightly unexpected.



  • Brettermeier says:


    …Gabriela Sabatini?!

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    I would have thought Rautavaara.

  • Simon Hall says:

    I would go for Leevi Madetoja, even though his music sounds a tad like Sibelius.

  • Siegfried Bassoon says:

    Lasse Virén?

  • Ben G. says:

    Kaija Saariaho?

  • Maarten Brandt says:

    Kaija Saariaho

  • PHF says:

    She’s a relevant figure in contemporary music for decades already. This an important moment not only for recognizing her competence, but this is not the kind of recognition women composers always receive.

  • Erik O says:

    Uuno Klami!

  • Jean says:

    Seriously thinking, it is extremely subjective to choose #2. If you are looking for a symphonist (Melartin, Madetoja), opera composer (Sallinen) or a miniaturist (O. Merikanto)..? Between the years 1985-95 the title ‘greatest Finnish composer after Sibelius’ was given in different literary sources to Joonas Kokkonen, Aulis Sallinen and Einojuhani Rautavaara. In terms of popularity, Oskar Merikanto – composer of songs and pianp miniatures – was always more popular than Sibelius…. Sibelius himself thought in the 1920s that Selim Palmgren might become more popular composer in the USA than him.

  • George says:

    Aulis Sallinen

  • Guy Rickards says:

    I’d have thought Einojuhani Rautavaara, though would have preferred Einar Englund or Kalevi Aho.

  • Caravaggio says:


  • Maximilian says:

    Bernhard Crusell!

  • Ben G. says:

    Strange that nobody has mentioned Leif Segerstam yet with his 327 symphonies (as of Sept. 2018) and the rest….
    I think that the picture above is misleading; the choice could possibly be a male composer.

  • Karl says:

    In addition to the previously mentioned Madetoja Sallinen, and Klami, Erkki Melartin and Aarre Merikanto were also fine composers. Melartin completed 6 symphonies, an opera, a violin concerto, 4 string quartets, and a ballet.

  • Novagerio says:

    Magnus Lindberg! A brilliant original composer of the century AFTER Sibelius.
    I don’t care much for Kaija. It sounds too much like romanticized Boulez.

    And if it has to be a woman in general, I say Gubaidulina anytime!

  • Chris says:

    I’d say Kokkonen. He is the closest composer to Sibelius in terms of what more than anything else makes Sibelius great: extending the symphonic tradition by means that are maximally progressive but don’t undermine that tradition. Saariaho is a fail in that regard. Lindberg would be a better choice if Kokkonen is deemed too musically conservative a choice. After Kokkonen would, I think, be Rautavaara or Kaipainen.