Published  15/01/2002

The Finland diaspora 2001

It has been inspiring to see how, through this year, one small European nation continues to achieve a cultural impact wholly disproportionate to its small population of less than 5.5 million, one-tenth of that of the United Kingdom. Quite apart from Grand Prix Formula successes, Finland has produced a remarkable flow of talented musicians. Once only Sibelius was known. Maybe these developments are a kind of Sibelius long-term harvest of brilliance. The opera singer Karia Mattila brought the Royal Opera House to a standing ovation, followed by Soile Isokoski with equal rapture. Here is the leading female composer Kaija Saariaho, the pianist Raija Kerppo and the clarinet virtuoso player Kari Kriikku. These stars are simply the outcrop of what is now a deeply rooted musical culture unlike that of any other nation. Finland supports 30 orchestras and there are 45 annual music festivals. There is something too about the Finnish language, which lends itself to singing tones.

Now Elina Brotherus, best described as a video composer, is creating symphonies of light at Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, now re-opened as the Wapping project in October. (see Reviews, December). It is to be hoped that there will be much more exposure of visual arts talent from Finland in the United Kingdom. Such artists as Knut Asdam, Annika von Hausswolff and Knut Asdam, of the same generation as Brotherus, and Alvar Gullichsen need to be more widely experienced.

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