Kimmo Hakola (born 27 July 1958) is a Finnish composer, who studied at the Sibelius Academy under Einojuhani Rautavaara and Eero Hämeenniemi. He is coming to Bodø with his 4th string quartet, performed by musicians from Esbjerg Ensemble.
Hakola entered the limelight at the end of the 1980s after his success at the Unesco Composers’ Rostrum. In 1987 he won the Rostrum with his String Quartet and in 1991 with his Capriole for cello and clarinet.
Hakola’s music has been performed at several major music events and festivals, and portrait concerts of his works have been held e.g. in Los Angeles (Monday Evening Concerts) and New York (Miller Theatre, Broadway). His music was also broadly presented at the Stockholm International Composer’s Festival in 2008.
Hakola’s works usually attract exceptional interest. He is a creator of intense musical dramas that recognize no stylistic or expressive limits. His music is a combination of exciting dramatic power and exceptional musical quality and musicianship is manifest in all his achievements resulting in communicativeness and richness of sound that speak of the composer’s delight at discovering his very own idiom.
Kimmo Hakola has composed six operas: The Mastersingers of Mars (a delightful cartoon opera including elements unusual for an opera, 2000), The Mustard Seed (Sinapinsiemen, 2000), The Rolling Stone (Vierivä kivi, 2008), Mara and Katti (a family opera, 2011), La Fenice (commissioned by the Savonlinna Opera Festival, 2011) and Akseli (a monologue opera, 2012). His work list also includes orchestral works and concertos for different instruments. The Piano Concerto premiered at the Helsinki Festival in 1996 was an unprecedented work in new Finnish music in its expressive range, variety of styles and massive scope. The Clarinet Concerto has been a roaring success and it has been performed several times since the premiere in 2001. The Chamber Concerto commissioned by Present Music was premiered in Milwaukee, USA in March 2002. Hakola has also composed concertos for oboe, flute, electric kantele and guitar. The Violin Concerto (2012) was a co-commission between the WDR Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic and John Storgårds. The latest addition to the list is the Double Concerto for Violin and Viola commissioned by the Tapiola Sinfonietta and premiered on 22 September 2017 with Minna Pensola and Antti Tikkanen as the soloists.
His other orchestral works include a Sinfonietta (1999), Verdoyances crepuscules (2003), Maro (commissioned by the Swedish Radio and Berwald Hall for a performance at the Baltic Sea Festival in August 2006) and KIMM (commissioned by the Stockholm International Composer’s Festival in 2008). Hakola was also commissioned to write music to the Finnish silent film Tukkijoella, a project that was completed in 2013 and premiered by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. His latest orchestral works include Symphony No. 1 commissioned and premiered by the Finnish RSO in December 2018.
What is Truth, in art? Are the wordless expressions, freer than other art forms? Any thoughts on this?
Truth in art is the creative spirit free from all constraints. Truth is integrity to one’s own voice. Truth is life-long learning to listen to the mind. Freedom may incorporate words, but their meanings are born in the recipient’s mind; they cannot be constrained.
Do you have any thoughts on music’s role in our identity? Do you think of your self as a Nordic composer?
All my creative works and intentions spring from within me. My music is me. I am my writings, my poems and my images. I do not regard myself as Nordic. I do not regard myself as Finnish. I do not regard myself as a Helsinkian. I’m at home in myself and myself is at home wherever I am. I do not recognise our identity.
You seem to have a thing for big drama! And also your music is full of surprises and excitement. Is the dramaturgic part of the music important to you?
It’s not an end in itself. Out in the forest, I try to listen to the emptiness, but everything around me begins to take shape as a drama. My brain has a tendency to organise the world. I’ve maybe got a long way to go in learning how to get rid of all this.
Looking back over your career as a composer, what advice would you give your young self?
I’d like to say that almost everything you dream of now will one day have been done. Then you’ll be free.
What thoughts do you have about the composer’s role in the further development of the music and art field?
We’ll need composers because all the music is not yet here. If composers do only the music of their dreams, there will always be people who want to share this dream. Imitating other composers is not the way to happiness. A shared aesthetic may for sure generate a kindred spirit. It gives you a sense of security if you’re afraid of getting lost. Interaction of all kinds between the arts will acquire a bigger role in the future. It’s advisable to improve one’s knowhow of all fields of the arts.
The string quartet is a format in which the contemporary composer inevitably has to take a critical look at the technique he intends to use and his mode of expression. In the history of Western music, string quartets have done more to renew musical genres – from the Classical era onwards – than any other type of composition. The string quartet is a compact line-up of similarly-toned instruments, much as a vocal ensemble, in which the inner invention and power of the music are more important than colour.
My first string quartet (1986) was a landmark in my career. I could, to exaggerate slightly, say that all my musical invention over the years was already germinating in it. My second quartet (1997) was an in-depth comment on the characters of the first. I discovered further interesting properties in the material. My third was born while I was composing my oratorio Le Sacrifice in Paris in 2002. An intimate work born of the energy waves of a large-scale one and pinpointing details was like a refreshing oasis respite from painting a vast fresco.
The fourth string quartet was inspired above all by magnificent musicianship: it is dedicated to the Meta4 Quartet, whose performances of my first quartet have in recent years made an indelible impact on my empirical world. The fourth quartet is the floundering, playful, if necessary defiantly dramatic, surprising, capricious and unrestrained tour de force of a youthful entity.