Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Sampo Haapamäki: Historia
Winner of many accolades, most recently the Nordic Prize for Music (2020), Sampo Haapamäki (b. 1979) is one of Finland’s leading contemporary composers. A salient feature of his music is his use of quarter-tones, meaning that he divides the octave into 24 tones instead of the traditional 12. His brand-new Historia is therefore a chance for the listener to plunge into the whirlpool of microtonal music.
Historia is the most recent addition to the Helsinki Variations series commissioned by the HPO. One of the conditions of this series is that the variation must allude to a Finnish piece of music composed before 1945. Haapamäki’s gaze fell upon a 12-tone chord in the Schott Concerto composed by Aarre Merikanto (1893—1958) in 1924 and thought to be the first in which such a chord was heard in Finnish music. Historia also makes reference to other classics: over 80 in all. Lasting 15 minutes, it consists of seven ‘Lapsus’, i.e. slips, lapses or errors, separated by at most a short break. The piece is, says Haapamäki, a case of parodic intertextuality, aiming at a sort of self-reflection, examining history from ‘outside the box’. In the process, each ‘lapsus’ generates novel variations. Just as we always perceive history from our own time perspective, Historia addresses the concept of time both now and past.