Great sadness: Kaija Saariaho has diedRIP
The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho passed away peacefully at home in Paris this morning, her publisher has announced
She was 70 yrars old and had been suffering from a debilitating illness that was all too apparent at the recent premiere of her opera Innocence at Covent Garden. Her family have disclosed that she was diagnosed with brain cancer in February 2021, but her cognitive functions were not affected until recently. Nonetheless, she suffered repeated falls and broken bones and latterly used a wheelchair.
Kaija is survived by her French husband, the composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière, and their two children, Aleksi and Aliisa. She earned her place among the world’s leading composers with the Salzburg premiere of her opera L’amour de loin in August 2000. Hers was a unique and inimitable voice, cut short far too soon.
Her last completed score, a trumpet concerto, will be premiered in Helsinki on August 24.
Her friend the Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen said: ‘This is the day that I never wanted to come. Kaija has moved on from this troubled world. She is gone but she didn’t leave us, her magnificent music will go on accompanying us on our travel in this world. One note, or one silence of hers is enough to bring her back. In her music she knew the truth, the darkness of it, the lightness of it. It will be difficult, though, to be waiting for the phone to ring every day as it has for the last 43 years. She was more than a friend, more than a sister, more than a colleague, more than a composer. We knew each other better than we knew ourselves. I am comforted by the fact that she is in peace now.’
UPDATE: Musicians shed tears for Kaija