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Heininen has been active as a pianist of considerable virtuoso skills and as a conductor, and his work as theory and composition teacher has been of seminal importance. Though an entire generation of composers has emerged from his class at the Sibelius Academy, any talk of a Heininen School fails to take into account his unprejudiced teaching methods, which are open to any style, and the wide divergences between his pupils. Heininen has also made a significant contribution to a wider understanding of Finnish music through his many articles: he has written more extensively and with greater perception about individual composers than anyone else and the viewpoints presented in his essays on other topics are often refreshingly different.
Heininen began his career in the late fifties and was the first Finnish composer to take dodecaphony as a natural starting point; the neo-classical colouring of his first few works can be attributed to his background as a pianist. From the very start Heininen’s desire to write ambitious and uncompromising works on the grandest scale usuing 12-tone technique ran counter to the cultural climate of the day. Although critical opinion was in many respects less old-fashioned than today, there was a wide gulf between the public and new music and a general lack of comprehension. Although sixties radicalism contributed to a change in attitudes, its concept of the new was so superficial and sensationalist that it virtually excluded music such as Heininen’s with its serious concern for newness in art. The oft-repeated story of the scandal that surrounded the premiere of Heininen’s Symphony no. 1 (when the work was considered too complex to be performed in its entirety) provides an indication of the extent to which Heininen experienced difficulties in communicating with his audience.
By way of reaction, Heininen’s music from Tripartita onwards through the seventies and also, to a certain extent, into the eighties, falls into two categories. On the one hand he wrote his ‘own’ music springing from his own inner world of feeling and, on the other, works that, to a greater or lesser degree, merely alluded to these feelings and were deliberately simplified to aid comprehension. But it would not be correct to call these ‘compromises’ pastiches: they merely reflect parts of the composer’s vision instead of the whole. Behind them lies a view of the world that is consistently proportioned but necessarily restricted in comparison with Heininen’s ‘own’ music. However, it should be borne in mind that Heininen’s ‘compromises’ hardly constitute easy solutions in terms of the average level of difficulty of the music of the period.
- 4 Symphonies
- Concertos for piano (3) - very virtuosic
- Concerto for Saxophone & Orchestra
- Concerto for Cello & Orchestra
- Piano works (among them an impressive piano sonata)
- Important opera: The Damask Drum
Paavo Heininen is one of the most comprehensively schooled of all Finnish composers. He studied privately with Usko Meriläinen and then at the Sibelius Academy with Aarre Merikanto, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Einar Englund and Joonas Kokkonen. After receiving his diploma in composition in 1960, he continued his studies first with Bernd Alois Zimmermann in Cologne and then, a year later, with Vincent Persichetti and Eduard Steuermann at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. In the mid-sixties Heininen paid a brief but important visit to Poland to work with Witold Lutoslawski. He also studied the theory of music at Helsinki University.