Kaija Saariaho and Her Laterna Magica


Nowadays Kaija Saariaho is one of the most successful composers in the field of contemporary classical music. A former student of Tristan Murail, she works in the direction initiated by socalled spectral composition, composing extremely colourful and poetic pieces that are highly appreciated by music critics. One of her orchestra compositions, Laterna Magica, based on the memoirs by Ingmar Bergman and commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra, premiered in 2009 and became a hit — it was performed more than thirty times after the premiere. This successful piece is the main object of the analysis which is performed according to ideas of Saariaho expressed in her theoretical articles. One of the most interesting ideas about music form proposed by the composer is the idea of “polyphony of processes”, which means that different parameters of composition are realized in different schemes that do not intersect but act as separate phenomena creating an impression of both independence of the parameters and their interaction at the same time. Such parameters as rhythm, melodic ideas, application of text, tempos, textures and their combinations as well as orchestration and harmony have their own profile and are constructed according to different schemes. Besides music itself, a text by Saariaho written for the premiere of the piece is analysed and interpreted as a special case of a “composer’s vision” which shows specific angles in the author’s perception.

Ключевые слова:

Kaija Saariaho, contemporary classical music, Laterna Magica, Ingmar Bergman, polyphony of parameters, independent compositional parametrical schemes, composer’s vision


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Биография автора

Tatiana V. Tsaregradskaya, The Gnesin Russian Academy of Music

Dr. Habil. in Arts, Professor



1. Pousset, Damien. “The Works of Kaija Saariaho, Philippe Hurel and Marc-André Dalbavie — Stile Concertato, Stile Concitato, Stile Rappresentativo”. Transl. by Joshua Fineberg and Ronan Hyacinthe. Contemporary Music Review 19, pt. 3 (2000): 67–110.

2. Deliège, Célestin. “Atonal Harmony: From Set to Scale”. In Contemporary Music. Theoretical and Philosophical Perspectives, ed. by Irène Deliège and Max Paddison, 51–77. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

3. Manoury, Philippe. La musique du temps reel. Entretiens avec Omer Corlaix et Jean-Guillaume Lebrun. Paris: Éditions MF, 2012.

4. Moisala, Pirkko. Kaija Saariaho. Urbana; Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009. (Women Composers).

5. Howell, Tim, Jon Hargreaves, and Michael Rofe, eds. Kaija Saariaho: Visions, Narratives, Dialogs. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.

6. Skhaplok, Galina. Music of Kaija Saariaho. Moscow: Kompozitor Publ., 2017. (In Russian)

7. Tsaregradskaya, Tatiana. Musical Gesture in Space of Modern Composition. Moscow: Kompozitor Publ., 2018. (In Russian)

8. Bergman, Ingmar. Laterna Magica. Rus. ed. Transl. by A. Afinogenov. Moscow: N Publ.; AST Publ., 2019. (Ekskliuzivnaia klassika). (Knigi, izmenivshie mir. Pisateli, ob”edinivshie pokoleniia). (In Russian)

9. Nieminen, Risto. “Kaija Saariaho: ‘At the Moment the Computer and I Belong Together’”. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://fmq.fi/articles/kaija-saariaho-8220-at-the-moment-the-computer-and-i-belong-together.

10. Saariaho, Kaija. “My Library, from Words to Music”. Transl. by Jeffrey Zuckerman. Music and Literature, no. 5 (2014): 12–5.

11. “Laterna Magica”. Kaija Saariaho. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://saariaho.org/works/laterna-magica/.

12. Kosman, Joshua. “Saariaho’s ‘Laterna Magica’ is a Winning Jumble of Ideas”. SFGATE. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Saariaho-s-Laterna-Magica-is-a-winning-6572310.php.

13. Cadagin, Joe. “Berkeley Symphony Explores Light Music”. San Francisco Classical Voice. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.sfcv.org/articles/review/berkeley-symphony-explores-light-music+&cd=1&hl=ru&ct=clnk&gl=ru.

14. Anderson, Colin. “Prom 5: Also sprach Zarathustra… Laterna magica”. Accessed June 16, 2021. https://www.classicalsource.com/prom/prom-5-also-sprach-zarathustra-laterna-magica/.

15. Saariaho, Kaija. “Timbre and Harmony: Interpolations of Timbral Structures”. Contemporary Music Review 2, iss. 1 (1987): 93–133. https://doi.org/10.1080/07494468708567055.

16. Singleton, Philip. “Spectralism Today: A Survey of the Consequences for Contemporary Composition of the French Spectral School of the 1970s and 1980s”. PhD Thesis, University of Surrey, 2015.

17. Harmeyer, Jackson. “Liminal Aesthetics: Perspectives on Harmony and Timbre in the Music of Olivier Messiaen, Tristan Murail, and Kaija Saariaho”. Master’s Thesis, University of Louisville, 2019. https://doi.org/10.18297/etd/3177.

18. Anderson, Julian. “A Provisional History of Spectral Music”. Contemporary Music Review 19, pt. 2 (2000): 7–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/07494460000640231.

19. Kholopova, Valentina. Music Theory: Melody, Rhythm, Texture, Thematism. 2nd ed. St. Petersburg: Lan’ Publ.; Planeta muzyki Publ., 2010. (Uchebniki dlia vuzov. Spetsial’naia literatura). (In Russian)

20. Sokolov, Aleksandr. “Spectral Method”. In Teoriia sovremennoi kompozitsii, executive ed. Valeriia Tsenova, 548–62. Moscow: Muzyka Publ., 2005. (Academia XXI: uchebniki i uchebnye posobiia po kul’ture i iskusstvu). (In Russian)

21. Mao-Takacs, Clément. “L’aile de l’ombre: conversation avec Kaija Saariaho”. Tempus Perfectum, no. 11 (2013): 7–14.

22. Meine, Rodrigo. “The Unified Colour and the Division of Orchestral Phrases in Kaija Saariaho’s ‘Laterna Magica’: The Modelling Process as a Guideline for Compositional Decisions”. ART Music Review, no. 32 (2017): s. p.

Как цитировать
Tsaregradskaya, T. V. (2021). Kaija Saariaho and Her Laterna Magica. Вестник Санкт-Петербургского университета. Искусствоведение, 11(4), 607-635. https://doi.org/10.21638/spbu15.2021.403