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Beethoven 2020 | BBC Radio 3’s Petroc Trelawny interviews renowned composer Kaija Saariaho


Hello, I’m here at the
BBC Studios in Maida Vale, in West London, which is home
to the BBC Symphony Orchestra. And I’m delighted to be joined
by the Finnish Composer, Kaija Saariaho. Kaija, just tell me what
Beethoven means to you, as a composer born 250 years ago? – It’s quite interesting because Beethoven for every musician, professional musician, means a lot of things, which, in the beginning of course, we all play his music, but then we also analyze his
music. That’s official program all over the world. And
then over the years, you little by little
you start understanding that analysis, it was
just a little surface. And in fact we speak about ever-changing, innovative, and, energetic music. And I think only when
you are professional, you fully understand the craft and the finesse and, and all
the very different character of this music. So,
Beethoven is somebody who is always present in composers life. – So, it’s as if there are
a huge number of levels to Beethoven, you can listen,
if you know very little about music, you can listen
to the Eroica Symphony, or the Pastoral Symphony,
or the Hammerklavier, or the Moonlight Sonata,
and derive enormous amounts of pleasure from hearing those works. Or you can dig deeper
and deeper and deeper and learn more and more
and more about his, his musical world. – Yes, I mean of course when
we listen to the first time, or if you are not musician,
you can appreciate the beautiful, melodic invention. You can enjoy the energy and the rhythmic energy, or the dramatic turns in music. And then of course, on
more professional level, you are really interested
in seeing how he has built that all. And because it’s his music as with all great composers, the connection with his person is so direct. So, we hear the personality,
we hear the person through the music. And that what makes it so lively. – How much does he
influence you as a composer? – You know this kind of
influences of composers with whom I’ve lived
now for very long time, I cannot measure. And, when one listens to my music, it doesn’t sound very
Beethoven influenced. But, certainly I have admired very much, his innovation, and made lively even the most repetitive form of structures. So, I imagine through that admiration, he has brought something also to my music. – The European Broadcasting Union has commissioned you to write a short piece, between one and
one and a half minutes long for full symphony orchestra. To celebrate Beethoven
250. To be played before each of the broadcast of concerts from cities across Europe,
being broadcast to Europe, and beyond. That’s quite a brief I
wonder where you started, when you took out your manuscript paper and began work? – Well I was asked to write something, which would be my music, but which would remind people of Beethoven. So, I was thinking, I’m not
going to fake Beethoven. I would rather find some phrases where his character and his music
is really recognizable. So, I took two short passages
from the second symphony. And then I started imagining, well no, it was similar to honestly,
it was at the time. I imagined what could
be the meeting points with my music and his. And so, the chords from
the second symphony, I also like chords, full orchestra chords, and, then I was thinking that
it would be good to have one pair of contrasts,
and, that is of course the texture, his texture, and especially in the finale where it’s
just very much about physical energy. And me only had to add
very much about the color. – I gotta sense of the cosmos, of stars, of kind of a sense of
looking up into the sky and this infinite wonder
that, that you see. And I wonder if that
was a thought in your, in your mind of how
Beethoven sits within that. Beethoven as a living
musician, 220, 230 years ago, and Beethoven now as, as
someone we, we revere. – Well, maybe it’s also, maybe my feeling was like reaching for him. Or going to meet him. In fact, if you really start thinking about it, and I had to think about it quite a lot in my working room,
it’s quite intimidating, finally, in fact it is Beethoven. So, maybe it was… Yes, maybe I was trying to find my way towards him. – Kaija Saariaho, thank you. – Thank you.

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