About

Ilari Kaila is a Finnish-American composer and pianist, currently on a visiting faculty appointment from New York as Composer-in-Residence at HKUST in Hong Kong. His music has been described as “haunting” (Steve Smith, The New York Times), “intriguing” (Brian Seibert, The New York Times), “engaging … soulful” (Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times), “lyrical” (Heather Leviston, Classic Melbourne), and “powerfully resonating” (Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat).

Most recently, Kaila’s works have been presented at the 2015 Chelsea Music Festival in New York City and Taipei as the festival’s Composer-in-Residence; at the Metropolis Festival in Australia by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; on the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra’s tour of Japan; in Finland by the Joensuu Symphony Orchestra; in Hong Kong as one of six young Composer Fellows featured in the Intimacy of Creativity 2014 program and festival; at the Banff Centre Summer Arts Festival in Canada; at the MATA Festival in New York City; and the New York International Fringe Festival; among others. Upcoming projects include premieres with the Aizuri String Quartet in New York and with the Helsyd Piano Trio on tour in Finland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Australia, culminating in a joint project with the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble.

Kaila has worked with artists and ensembles including Olli Mustonen, the Escher String Quartet, the Tanglewood New Fromm Players, the Evita String Quartet, the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, Bright Sheng, the Uusinta Chamber Ensemble, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, David Alan Miller, the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, Jurjen Hempel, Atso Almila, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’s chamber ensembles, and the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra. He has been awarded in the Mellon Foundation/ASO “Composer to Center Stage” competition, in the IC2014 World Premiere Concert Audience Vote in Hong Kong, and in the Composer Competition of the 9th International Piano Festival in Espoo.

Kaila received his PhD in Music Composition from Stony Brook University in 2011, having previously studied at the Sibelius Academy in his native Finland. He has participated in master classes with Magnus Lindberg and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and studied Carnatic music on several trips to India between 2002 and 2011. As a pianist, Kaila has performed in premieres of his own and other young composers’ works, and in various improvisation and stage projects.

In addition to teaching harmony, counterpoint and musicianship at Columbia University, he has worked for the New York Philharmonic as a teaching artist in composition, both in New York and within an ongoing collaborative project with partners in Helsinki, including the Sibelius Academy, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic, and the National Opera. At Stony Brook University, he has taught graduate courses in counterpoint to composers and post-tonal music analysis.

Alongside music, Kaila works as a freelance writer and journalist. He has produced documentaries and docudramas for the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE Finland) and published articles and investigative pieces in various newspapers and periodicals in Finland and the US.

Panel 1

Listen »

Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down) — In Memoriam Hanna Sarvala
for piano and string quartet

listen on Spotify • buy track on Amazon


Dusk
from the dance work Tejas — Luminous
for voice and two violins


Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra

for solo cello, 2222-2200-1perc-65444


Cameo
for flute, viola, piano


Taonta
for piano


Toccata
Listen to Kirill Kozlovski’s album Shostakovich in Context on Spotify • buy album from Amazon (CD, streaming, or download) or from Pilfink Records


 

Panel 2

List of works »

Chamber and solo instrument works »
Works for orchestra or large ensemble »
Works for the stage »
Discography »

Chamber and solo instrument works

Taonta (2016)
for piano
duration: 14′ 30″
Fp: Finnland-Institut, Berlin, 1 December 2016; Emil Holmström, piano
listen on SoundCloud


Cameo (2015)
for flute, viola, piano
duration: 9′
Fp: Chelsea Music Festival, New York City, 13 June 2015; Malla Vivolin, flute; Derek Mosloff, viola; Emil Holmström, piano
listen on SoundCloud


Prelude (2014)
for piano
duration: 3′
Fp: Chelsea Music Festival: Toccata and Groove, New York City, 13 June 2015; Melinda Lee Masur, piano


Like Crows in the Rain (2010)
for soprano, kantele, flute, clarinet, cello
Duration: 7′ 45″
Fp: Church of the Rock, Helsinki, May 25, 2010; Elisabeth Holmertz, soprano; Hedi Viisma, kantele; Hanna Kinnunen, flute; Mikko Raasakka, clarinet and bass clarinet; Seeli Toivio, cello


Lumen nimiä (Names of Snow) (2007)
for piano, violin, cello
duration: 7′ 30″
Fp: Scandinavia House, New York City, 15 May 2007; Susanna Suorttanen, violin; Roi Ruottinen, cello; Ilari Kaila, piano


Kellojen kumarrus — In Memoriam Hanna Sarvala (The Bells Bow Down — In Memoriam Hanna Sarvala) (2006)
for piano and string quartet
duration: 8′ 45″
Fp: Emerson String Quartet International Chamber Music Festival, Stony Brook, New York, 5 May 2007; Tuyen Tonnu, piano; Escher String Quartet: Adam Barnett-Hart and Wu Jie, violins; Pierre Lapointe, viola; Andrew Janss, cello
Also exists as a piano concerto version.
listen on Spotifybuy track on Amazonlisten on SoundCloud


Toccata (2004)
for piano
duration: 10′
Fp: Finnish Music Day, Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, 11 Mar 2004; Emil Holmström, piano
listen on Spotify • buy Kiril Kozlovski’s Shostakovich in Context album from Amazon (CD, streaming, or download) or from Pilfink Records


Wisteria (2003)
for string quartet
duration: 6′
Fp: Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook, New York, 22 Nov 2004; Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players: Minghuan Xu and Carrie Kennedy, violins; David Hamano, viola; Brian Snow, cello.


Maa hengittää (Earth Breathing) (1999)
for mezzo-soprano, piano, oboe, cello
duration: 6′ 30″
Fp: Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, Finland, spring 2000; Titta Lampela, mezzo-soprano; Emil Holmström, piano; Anni Haapaniemi, oboe; Tuomas Ylinen, cello; Helsinki, 2000


Works for orchestra or large ensemble

Iso tammi (The Great Oak) (2014)
for soprano and symphony orchestra
duration: 15′


Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra (2011)
for solo cello, 2222-2200-1perc-65444
duration: 17′ 32″
Fp: Kuopio, Finland, 3 Nov 2011; Roi Ruottinen, cello; Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Jurjen Hempel;
listen on SoundCloud


O Frabjous Day (2010)
for symphony orchestra
duration: 13′
Fp: Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook, New York, 26 Feb 2011; Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, cond. Alan Kay


Kellojen kumarrus — In Memoriam Hanna Sarvala (The Bells Bow Down — In Memoriam Hanna Sarvala) (2006)
for piano and symphony orchestra
duration: 8′ 56″
Also exists as a piano quintet version.


Enter Oberon (2005)
for symphony orchestra
duration: 2′ 30″
Fp: Avanti! Summer Sounds Festival, Porvoo, Finland, 30 Jun 2005; Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, cond. Magnus Lindberg


Skarabee (2003, revised 2004)
for symphony orchestra
duration: 8′
Fp: Päijänne sinfonietta, cond. Jani Kyllönen, Jyväskylä, Finland, Oct 2003.
Revised version recorded by the Stony Brook University Symphony Orchestra, cond. Ming Hsin, Stony Brook, New York, Dec 2004


De Profundis (2000)
for chamber orchestra and choir
duration: 7′
Fp: Kuopio, Finland, 2 Oct 2003; Kuopio Symphony Orchestra and Ancora Chamber Choir, cond. Atso Almila


Works for the stage

Dusk (2009) and Evening (2009)
for two western percussionists, Indian percussion (kanchira, mrdangam), singer, two violins
duration: 4′ 43″ + 16′
Two pieces from the group dance work Tejas — Luminous in the South Indian Bharatanatyam idiom, by Malini Srinivasan and Dancers.
Fp: Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook, New York, September 24, 2009; Nicholas Woodbury, marimba and western percussion; Ilari Kaila, voice and western percussion; Murali Balachandran, South Indian percussion; Trina Basu, violin
hear Dusk on SoundCloud


Siva’s Grief
duration: 20′
for South Indian violin, Indian and western percussion, marimba, piano
A solo Bharatanatyam dance piece choreographed and performed by Malini Srinivasan. Music produced in collaboration with the ensemble by means of structured improvisation.
Fp: LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Queens, New York City; October 1-2, 2010.
Trina Basu, violin; Jonathan Singer and Nick Woodbury, percussion; Ilari Kaila, piano

Discography

Kirill Kozlovski: Shostakovich in Context
(Pilfink Records, 2017)
featuring Toccata for piano

Kozlovski Shostakovich in Context


Escher String Quartet: Stony Brook Soundings
(Bridge Records, 2009 — BRIDGE 9318)
featuring The Bells Bow Down for piano and string quartet

Escher String Quartet and Friends


Piano Nyt! Contemporary Piano Music from Finland
(Siba Records, 2004 — SACD 14)
featuring Toccata for piano

Piano-Nyt-CD


Panel 3

Concerts »

Upcoming concerts and events:

Jouhet (world premiere) — new commission for the Aizuri String Quartet. Multiple performances around US through 2017-18, details TBA.


New work for the Helsyd Piano Trio
25 Nov 2017
Hong Kong Chamber Music Society
Details TBA


Cameo and Names of Snow (Asian premieres)
100 Years of Independent Music
Joint project between the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble and the Helsyd Piano Trio, Hong Kong and Macau, November 2017 — details TBA


Selected past performances:

Taonta (movements I & II)
16 May 2017
Queens New Music Festival
The Secret Theatre, Queens, New York
Markus Kaitila, piano


Ilari Kaila’s composition class concert
7 May 2017
HKUST Music Alive!
Cheng Yu Tung Building, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Ling Chen, violin; Ilari Kaila, piano; Galison Lau, piano; UST students and alumni


Taonta
1 Apr 2017 at 3:00 pm
Tapiola Sinfonietta Chamber Music Ensembles: Music in the Manors
Vallmogård Manor, Kauniainen, Finland
Emil Holmström, piano


Taonta
22 Mar 2017 at 7:00 pm
Duo Evening: Anni Haapanen & Emil Holmström
Sibelius Museum, Turku, Finland


Names of Snow (Lumen nimiä)
4 Feb 2017 at 7:30 pm
Concerts on the Slope
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Domenic Salerni, violin; Benjamin Larsen, cello; Marja Kaisla, piano


Toccata
2 Feb 2017 at 6:00 pm
Flyygelikuu: Maija Parko
Vuotalo, Helsinki, Finland
Maija Parko, piano


Taonta (world premiere)
1 Dec 2016 at 7:00 pm
Konzertreihe Freigeist
Finnland-Institut, Berlin
Emil Holmström, piano


Toccata
30 Oct 2016 at 3:00 pm
Piano Recital: Sophie Patey and Everett Hopfner
United Church, Dauphin, Canada


Toccata
29 Oct 2016 at 7:30 pm
Piano Recital: Sophie Patey and Everett Hopfner
Lorne Watson Recital Hall, Brandon, Canada
Sophie Patey, piano


Toccata
28 Oct 2016 at 12:30 pm
Music at Midday: Baroque Connections
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Sophie Patey, piano


Toccata
14 Oct 2016 at 8:00 pm
Baroque Connections
Mosterdzaadje, Holland
Sophie Patey, piano


Cameo (European premiere)
28 Aug 2016 at 7:00 pm
Helsingin Juhlaviikot (Helsinki Festival)
Helsinki Festival Club, Scandic Park
Malla Vivolin, flute; Hanna Hohti, viola; Emil Holmström, piano


Toccata
12 Apr 2016
Scandinavian Composers
Steinway Haus Frankfurt, Germany
Sophie Patey, piano


Preludes (preview from a work in progress)
9 Dec 2015 at 7:00 pm
Aikamatka
Steinway Gallery Helsinki, Finland
Emil Holmström, piano


Toccata
15 Nov 2015 at 4 pm (panel discussion at 3 pm)
Émigré music — Klavierabend
G18, Helsinki, Finland
Kirill Kozlovski, piano


Kyrie in Renaissance Style (world premiere)
31 Oct 2015 at 7:30 pm
Reverie @ HKUST Music Alive!
Cheng Yu Tung Building, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Reverie Choir (UK)


Prelude (European premiere)
30 Jul 2015 at 4 pm
Meidän Festivaali (Our Festival)
Kallio-Kuninkala and its surroundings, Finland: A walking concert with contemporary artwork
Emil Holmström, piano


Prelude (Asian premiere)
26 Jun 2015
Chelsea Music Festival — Asian edition
Redhouse, Taipei City, Taiwan
Melinda Lee Masur, piano


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
15 Jun 2015 at 7:30 pm
Chelsea Music Festival: Carte Blanche Avanti!
Scandinavia House, New York City
Avanti! Chamber Orchestra: Jouko Laivuori, piano; Kati Kuusava and Eriikka Maalismaa, violins; Lilli Maijala, viola; Jaakko Paarvala, cello


Prelude (world premiere)
Toccata (New York Premiere)
13 Jun 2015 at 7:30 pm
Chelsea Music Festival: Toccata and Groove
Canoe Studios, New York City
Melinda Lee Masur, piano (Prelude); Emil Holmström, piano (Toccata)


Cameo (world premiere)
12 Jun 2015 at 7:30 pm
Chelsea Music Festival: Opening Night Gala
Canoe Studios, New York City
Malla Vivolin, flute; Derek Mosloff, viola; Emil Holmström, piano


Tejas — Luminous
24 Aug 2014 at 4:15 pm
23 Aug 2014 at 8:15 pm
22 Aug 2014 at 4:45 pm
19 Aug 2014 at 2 pm
9 Aug 2014 at 8:45 pm
The New York International Fringe Festival
Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, New York City
Malini Srinivasan and Dancers. Nicholas Woodbury, percussion; Jonathan Singer, marimba and Indian percussion; Trina Basu, violin; Ilari Kaila, voice and Western percussion. A group dance work in the Bharatanatyam idiom, by Malini Srinivasan, featuring new works Dusk and Evening, alongside traditional Carnatic music. Note: These shows are performed to recorded music.


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
17 Jul 2014 at 7:30 pm
Banff Summer Arts Festival
Rolston Recital Hall, The Banff Centre, Canada
Tyler Wottrich, piano; Evita String Quartet: Hyorim Han, Haerim Liz Lee, violins; Yi-Chun Lin, viola; Soojung Kim, cello


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
15 Jun 2014 at 6 pm
Kallio-Kuninkala Festival
Leonora Hall, Kallio-Kuninkala, Finland
Risto-Matti Marin, piano; Zagros Ensemble and Friends


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
4 May 2014 at 3 pm
Intimacy of Creativity 2014
Hong Kong City Hall Theatre
Nolan Pearson, piano; The Tanglewood New Fromm Players: Sarah Silver, Matthew Leslie Santana, violins; Jocelin Pan, viola; Jesse Christeson, cello


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
3 May 2014 at 8 pm
Intimacy of Creativity 2014
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Nolan Pearson, piano; The Tanglewood New Fromm Players: Sarah Silver, Matthew Leslie Santana, violins; Jocelin Pan, viola; Jesse Christeson, cello


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
16 Apr 2014 at 8 pm
MATA Festival: Between Noise and Silence
The Kitchen, New York City
Uusinta Chamber Ensemble: Emil Holmström, piano; Maria Puusaari, Teija Kivinen, violins; Max Savikangas, viola; Markus Hohti, cello


Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra
12 Apr 2014 at 8 pm
Metropolis New Music Festival
Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, Australia
Marko Ylönen, cello; Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, cond. Olli Mustonen


Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra
7 Nov 2013
Carelia Hall, Joensuu, Finland
Roi Ruottinen, cello; Joensuu City Orchestra, cond. Atso Almila


Kellojen kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down)
8 Dec 2012
Finnish Music Day Concert
Helsinki Music Centre
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra Chamber Ensembles


O Frabjous Day
17 May 2012
American Music Festival: Composer to Center Stage
EMPAC — Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Troy, New York
Albany Symphony Orchestra, cond. David Alan Miller


Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra (world premiere)
3 Nov 2011
Kuopio Music Center, Finland
Roi Ruottinen, cello; Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Jurjen Hempel


Tejas — Luminous
2 Oct 2011 at 8 pm
1 Oct 2011 at 8 pm
LaGuardia Perfoming Arts Center, Queens, New York City
Malini Srinivasan and Dancers; Nicholas Woodbury, marimba and Western percussion; Murali Balachandran, South Indian percussion; Trina Basu, violin; Ilari Kaila, voice and Western percussion. A group dance work in the Bharatanatyam idiom, by Malini Srinivasan, featuring new works Dusk and Evening, alongside traditional Carnatic music.


O Frabjous Day (world premiere)
26 Feb 2011
Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook, New York
Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, cond. Alan Kay


Panel 4

Press »

Reviews »
Articles and interviews »
Books »

Reviews

Chelsea review

“The flutist Malla Vivolin, the violist Derek Mosloff and the pianist Emil Holmstrom performed the premiere of Cameo by the Finnish composer Ilari Kaila, inspired by the polyrhythms of 1970s progressive rock and the Carnatic music of southern India. Written as a celebration of Finland’s cosmopolitan outlook, the engaging piece features jaunty flute fragments, a soulful piano part and thick, rumbling textures.”

— Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times, 14 Jun 2015

Click here for the full review.


Tejas review NYT

“Besides ‘Night,’ the strongest sections are ‘Dusk’ and ‘Evening,’ in which intriguing part-Western music by the Finnish composer Ilari Kaila leads Ms. Srinivasan into experimentation, incorporating Western dance forms.”

— Brian Seibert, The New York Times, 10 Aug 2014

Click here for the full review.


“A work by the Finnish composer Ilari Kaila who has migrated to the United States, written in the memory of a fellow student who died young, Kellojen kumarrus — in memoriam Hanna Sarvala took its own license to bathe in romantic sonorities in a rather magnificent and glistening manner, bringing the concert to a light-filled conclusion.”

— Jarkko Hartikainen, Amfion, 16 Jun 2014

Click here for the full review (in Finnish).


“Engaging as those pieces were, I confess to breathing a sigh of relief when ‘Kellojen Kumarrus,’ a haunting work for piano and string quartet by Ilari Kaila, presented unambiguously consonant harmonies and a piano line that evoked tolling bells. An elegy for a pianist who died young, the work is a concerto writ small; in fact, Mr. Kaila wrote an orchestral version concurrently. Emil Holmstrom, the pianist, played with ample gravity and dignity.”

— Steve Smith, The New York Times, 17 Apr 2014

Click here for the full review.


“With Olli Mustonen conducting his own Concert champetre as the final ‘dessert’ component of the festival and the young Ilari Kaila participating in an interview after the playing of his Cello Concerto, which opened the program, there was very much an atmosphere of personal involvement.

“Articulate as both an interviewee and composer, Kaila’s commissioned work is a welcome addition to the cello repertoire and met with sustained applause. The challenge of solving what he saw as the notoriously difficult problem of balancing cello and orchestra became a source of inspiration. With Marko Ylonen as cellist, this less conventional form of concerto in one continuous movement impressed as an accessible, essentially lyrical work, with cadenzas providing dramatic highlights.”

— Heather Leviston, Classic Melbourne, 15 Apr 2014

Click here for the full review.


“Premiere performances by the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra are rare — luckily, this fall season saw one that turned out to be all the more successful. Ilari Kaila’s Concerto for Cello and Chamber Orchestra is a work with a lot of substance, and which, I believe, would only mature as an experience for the listener with multiple performances. One hopes that Kaila’s concerto will not suffer the same unfortunate fate as so much of contemporary music: of the premiere performance being the only performance.

“The concerto’s indisputable strength lies in its vigorously improvisatory character … Roi Ruottinen gave a powerful interpretation with his tenacious and versatile touch.”

— Jussi Mattila, Keski-Savo, 5 Nov 2011


“Ilari Kaila’s The Bells Bow Down for piano and string quartet is a chain of shaded waves of grief, where anguish assumes the forms of various, powerfully resonating textures of sound.”

— Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat, 19 Sep 2008


Articles and interviews

Freedom glimmers afar — Kaukana kajastaa vapaus (full article behind paywall, in Finnish) — Harri Kuusisaari, Rondo, 1 Apr 2017

“Composer Ilari Kaila found his artistic freedom first in New York and presently in Hong Kong. A multicultural perspective has brought home that music has no such things as right and wrong. The social role of art also becomes relevant in Hong Kong, a place currently struggling for its position.”

Rondo Classic


Review of Kirill Kozlovski’s CD Shostakovich in Context on Uudet levyt, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE Radio 1, 31 Mar 2017 (in Finnish)
New Finnish music in an interesting context (article in Finnish)

“Toccata, composed already ten years back by Ilari Kaila who migrated from Finland to New York and is currently active in Hong Kong, nods towards Renaissance polyphony and is intertwined with the polyphonic thinking of Shostakovich on multiple levels.”


Conversations of pairs — Kirill Kozlovski’s CD Shostakovich in Context and other recent albums discussed on Välilevyjä, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE Radio 1, 13 Mar 2017 (in Finnish).

“Usually, it’s the job of the Välilevyjä team to juxtapose peculiar specimens of music in such a way that they begin to converge and to communicate something they wouldn’t in isolation. But today we get off easy, as we let the musicians themselves create the dialogue.”


5 Question to Ilari Kaila — Lana Norris, I Care If You Listen, 3 Jun 2015

“Ilari Kaila is a Finnish-born composer, based in Hong Kong and with strong ties in New York City. He is the Chelsea Music Festival 2015 Composer-in-Residence, a residency which highlights work from an emerging composer reflecting its global programming. This year’s Festival features the music of Finland and Hungary, and Kaila’s composition ‘Cameo’ headlines the 2015 season’s June 12 Opening Night Gala at Canoe Studios. A separate world premiere performance and a collaboration with the Festival’s Finnish Ensemble-in-Residence Avanti! further introduce Kaila’s latest music to New York City. We caught up with Ilari as he prepares for his premieres to learn how his global artistic network shaped his path as a composer.”


Host Phil Whelan interviews clarinetist John Bruce Yeh and Ilari Kaila on Morning Brew, RTHK Radio 3, Hong Kong, 22 Apr 2015

John Bruce Yeh Ilari Kaila on Morning Brew


Composer profile and interview with host Ville Komppa on Ajassa soi, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE Radio 1, 24 Sep 2014 (in Finnish)
Ajassa soi introduces pre-eminent young Finnish composers (article in Finnish)

“In the first composer profile, we get to know Ilari Kaila who moved to the United States ten years ago and teaches at Columbia University. In the episode that airs on September 24, Ajassa soi introduces a composer who has delved deeply into styles including the vocal polyphony of Guillaume de Machaut from the 14th century, as well as South Indian classical Carnatic music.”

Ajassa soi.jpg


On-stage interview with Phillip Sametz on Australian Broadcasting Corporation/ABC Classic FM, after a performance of Kaila’s Cello Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Metropolis New Music Festival, 12 Apr 2014.


MATA Festival 2014 Opens Somewhere Between Noise and Silence — concert broadcast on Q2 Music, WQXR New York, 14 May 2014

Between Noise and Silence.png


In Touch With Ilari Kaila — Stephanie Ip, Interlude, 23 Apr 2014

“This week, we talk to Ilari Kaila, one of the six Composer Fellows, about his IC piece, Kellojen Kumarrus (The Bells Bow Down), and his musical career, in the lead up to one of Hong Kong’s most exciting events.”

Interlude interview.png


Books

FIMIC Pianists Edition cover.JPG

Ilari Kaila: Toccata
Excerpt from Pianists’ Edition — Finnish Works for Piano by Tuomas Mali (FIMIC 2009)

ILARI KAILA, who currently works in New York, has written one piano work to date, Toccata (2004). It received a special prize in the composition competition of the Espoo Piano Festival of 2007. The 10-minute work was premiered by pianist and composer EMIL HOLMSTRÖM in 2004. He says that already the titles of the sections of the work — Preludi, Gont, Meditaatio and Toccata — refer to the tension between traditional forms and the composer’s fantasy which is typical of Kaila’s music. The traditional forms constitute an overt framework, emphasizing the significance of the composer’s own, modern imagination.

Aesthetic liberalism

Holmström describes Toccata as a progression where free, homophonic texture alternates with a stricter, polyphonic texture. The free introduction is followed by a tightly knit fugue (Gont). The third section is a meditative improvisation over a ground bass, and this is followed by the polyphonic and fragmentary concluding section. “The structure is challenging and dramaturgically not at all simple. The musical elements are simple, but they are dashed into pieces as the work progresses. The concluding section does not bring all the threads together: it is fragmented yet smoothes over the tension of the music.”

The keyboard writing in Toccata is contrapuntal in a very traditional way, clearly and transparently continuing the European tradition of polyphonic music. The music could almost be described as owing something to Bach, although the virtuoso element characteristic of Bach’s toccatas is absent from Kaila’s piece. “The counterpoint harks perhaps even further back, to the 14th century and composers such as Guillaume de Machaut — Kaila does not anchor his music harmonically quite as strongly as Bach does. The exploratory, short-lived and constantly shifting sections also recall Girolamo Frescobaldi. But Kaila does not have a playful postmodern approach by any means.”

In a way, Kaila’s idiom is synthetic — he takes a lot of things from the tradition but filters them in a very subjective way. “His attitude towards the aesthetics of composition is quite liberal, which obviously irritates some of his colleagues,” Holmström points out.

Clear, translucent music

For the pianist, Toccata is gratifying to play and on the whole falls under the fingers comfortably. Holmström supposes that this is because the composer is himself an excellent pianist. The clear, translucent music requires the performer to be in command of the toolkit required for traditional polyphonic playing: clear voice-leading, control of levels of sonority and a vocal kind of instrumental approach.

“Kaila’s Toccata is extremely subjective and lyrical — it requires the listener too to sit up and concentrate,” Holmström says.