Finland mourns its leading symphonist

Finland mourns its leading symphonist


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2022

The composer Paavo Heininen died yesterday of cancer, aged 84.

As well as 8 symphnies and 4 piano concertos, he was prolific in almost every musical form. The last two symphonies were written during the pandemic. He was serially, seriously serialist

As professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy, Heininen’s pupils included Magnus Lindberg, Kaija Saariaho, Jukka Tiensuu and Jouni Kaipainen.



  • Akutagawa says:

    Finland’s leading symphonist? I’d have thought that Kalevi Aho could more credibly claim that title. But a sad life for Finnish music nonetheless. My condolences to friends and loved ones.

    • Fabius jean Frederik says:

      I used to be acquainted with the music of Kalevi Aho and I am sorry to tell you that this composer is insignificant comparing with Paavo Heininen

  • Andreas C. says:

    An intellectual and pedagogical giant and an irreplaceable loss to the Finnish contemporary music community.

    To me, his Modernism was always ”genuine” in the sense that what he wrote truly reflected his preferences, interests and way of thinking, and I’ve been told that as a pedagogue he appreciated and demanded hard work in a way that many of his students have been thankful for, and was not a fundamentalist, who would have imposed his own aesthetics on them.

    He composed prolifically until the very end and many of his late works, including an eighth symphony that he described as a ”dark” and ”earthy” in his final interview (the 7th was premiered last November in Helsinki and was to me one of his most interesting orchestral works), remain unperformed, so we can hope for and expect posthumous premieres to happen.

  • Helsinki Calling says:

    Heininen’s Symphony No. 7 was premiered in Helsinki by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Dima Slobodeniouk conducting, on 26/11 2021.

    Available online at:

    Start at ca. 4:40

  • Christopher Culver says:

    This is sad news. Heininen was Finland’s most infamous high modernist, but alongside works of serialist abstraction are other pieces where composer deliberately put his favourite techniques to the cause of greater audience-friendliness. Especially Heininen’s Piano Concerto No. 2 is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates, say, Bartók’s first two piano concertos.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Doubtless an interesing composer, and sad he passed away. But as for the music: why repeating Schoenberg’s and Berg’s misery? Subtle scoring and romantic lines cannot compensate for the nihilistic and hopeless depressiveness it all produces, like an eternal drizzle. That form of expressionism was an extreme style, I think one can do that only once.

  • Fabius jean Frederik says:

    I am very dismayed that there is no longer recordings on CDs for years
    of the music of finnish composer
    Paavo Heininen.
    Why ?