Vimma/Frenzy (Helsinki Variations)

03/03/2023

photo: Lea Kömi

One of the moments that inspire me the most in composition is the state of seemingly limitless possibilities, when many things are still to be locked. The inspiration for the Helsinki Variations had to be a Finnish composition composed before 1945.  The premise itself was exciting. I´m interested in anachronism in art, in this case, how folk heritage can flash in a new environment.

I set out to find inspiration from different sources, with the aim of introducing myself to new role models. I requested material from Susanna Välimäki and Nuppu Koivisto, Äänellä itkijät ry and the Finnish Folk Music Association and Heikki Laitinen. Finally, the life and music of folk musician Kreeta Haapasalo hit me. I never cease to be amazed by the frenzy, tenacity and fire that drove the tireless mother of 11 children to tour the Grand Duchy of Finland and neighboring countries as a performing artist. Her artist's travels were followed and her success was rejoiced. Her contemporary Zachris Topelius wrote about her: "She plays and sings a large number of both her own and others' songs, as clean as a bell, with a very beautiful and flexible voice."

According to Heikki Laitinen's (2003) doctoral thesis, Haapasalo was labeled a poor itinerant, but her own motive for touring was not poverty, but musicianship. She fought for freedom both as an artist and as a woman.

Kaustinen's Kreeta Haapasalo's composition Minun leipäni pieniin on pantu from the beginning of the 1850s especially touched me at a time when the varying degrees of lockdowns of the pandemic also made it difficult for artists to make a living, but which is also socially relevant when writing this program note. There are several versions of the composition, Kreeta Haapasalo had never heard that a composition should have a final form and owner. The song appears throughout the work as subjects chopped into small pieces. I also wanted to bring out the melody (or a variant of it) as such in the middle of the piece, slightly colored, as an arrangement that meets continuity.

Vimma was commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic.

Many thanks to Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Performances

3rd of March 2023 (F.p.). Helsinki Philharmonic and Janne Nisonen, conductor. Musica Nova. Commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic for Helsinki Variations series.