Kalevi Aho, one of Finland’s leading composers of today, was born in Forssa in southern Finland on 9th March 1949. He studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki under Einojuhani Rautavaara and in West Berlin in Boris Blacher’s composition class. In the years 1974-1988 he was a lecturer in musicology at Helsinki University; from 1988 until 1993 he was professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy and since the autumn of 1993 he has been a freelance composer.
In the works which marked his breakthrough (the First Symphony, 1969, and Third String Quartet, 1971) Aho continues in the tradition of Shostakovich; even in these pieces, however, he arrived at a very original formal/dramatic decision. Thus, in the four-movement First Symphony, we are gradually drawn ever further away from the “existing reality” of the beginning, ultimately reaching the third movement’s strange, pseudo-baroque style, and finally, in the last movement, we can meet the problems of the “true reality” head on. The structural starting-point for the single-movement Second Symphony is a triple fugue. In the four-movement Third Symphony the dramatic tension is different; it is a conflict between an individual (a solo violin) and the sound blocks of the orchestra; there is a similar conflict in the pessimistic Cello Concerto. The culmination of Aho’s first period is the three-movement Fourth Symphony with videly varied emotional contrasts.