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Joonas Kokkonen
1921 - 1996
Finland
Picture Picture
J. Kokkonen
Joonas Kokkonen (13/11/1921 - 02/10/1996), a Finnish composer, from Iisalmi. He was one of the dominant figures of the post-war history of Finnish musical life. He was also a leading symphonist who, in addition to composing made a tremendous contribution to his field by serving in numerous important administrative capacities, such as the chairman of Teosto, the Finnish copyright bureau and the chairman of the Nordic Composers Council. Kokkonen was also professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy from 1959 until 1963.
Kokkonen has come to be regarded as the spiritual successor to Sibelius while names such as Bach and Bartók have been proffed as his models. Following an early period of neoclassicism, he turned to 12-tone technique and on via his third symphony (1967) to free tonality. In the 1970s, especially, melody acquired an increasingly prominent position in his music.
Kokkonen was not a particularly prolific composer. Beginning with chamber music, he did not progress to orchestral music - nowadays considered his core genre - until he was nearly 40. Music for String Orchestra was written in 1957 and marked his breakthrough as a major orchestral composer. Kokkonen composed four symphonies in all; he is also known for his famous Cello Concerto, his Requiem and above all for the opera The Last Temptations completed in 1975. This main work by Kokkonen has won itself a place among one of the most succesful Finnish operas.
Requiem
Period:Modernism
Composed in:1981
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:38'04''
In memory of:the composer's wife Maija Kokkonen
Label(s):Bis CD 849/850
The Requiem is Kokkonen's second great vocal symphony, alongside The last temptations. The work unites Kokkonen the symphonist with his less familiar personality as a composer of vocal en choral music. He has nevertheless fulfilled his own central perception of composing -symphonic unity- in his choral pieces and songs. The Requiem came into being as the result of a suggestion from the mixed choir Akateeminen Laulu and its then musical director, Ulf Söderblom. In the late 1970s, just after the triumphant succes of The last temptations, the choir commissioned a piece. The composer was enthusiastic and planned an 'ecumenical mass'. Because of the long illness and eventual death of his wife, however, the piece turned into a requiem mass in her memory: Requiem in memoriam Maija Kokkonen. The composer provided the work with a conventional text: Mozart's and Verdi's 'Dies irae' movements with there terror of the last judgement are replaced by a comforting 'Tractus'. In the penultimate movement 'In paradisum', beautiful unison melodies lead the deceased, accompanied by angels, to paradise. The fifth movement, 'Hostias et preces' is perceived by the composer as a sort of cult dance. In the sixth movement, 'Sanctus' ,the work attains its dynamic climax, and it reaches its conclusion with 'Lux aeterna', a title with Kokkonen also gave to an organ piece, dating from 1974. The Requiem ends with the E majar harmony very dear to the composer, the encouraging nature of which also grandly ends his opera. Joonas Kokkonen concludes his score with the sign "S.D.G." -Soli Deo Gloria".
Author:Tero-Pekka Henell
Considerable space could be devoted to the three string quartets (1959, 1966 and 1976), which as a whole form the most significant contribution to the genre in Finland since Sibelius, or to what is perhaps Kokkonen's most amiable and immediately communicative work, the Requiem (1981), which is infused with a deep religious reliance.
Author:Mats Liljeroos