Heiniö, Mikko


Mikko Heiniö (born on 18 May 1948) studied composition with Joonas Kokkonen in Finland and Witold Szalonek in West Berlin, gaining his composition diploma from the Sibelius Academy in 1977. He also studied musicology and in 1984 earned a doctorate in the subject from the University of Helsinki, where worked as an assistant 1977-1985. He was Professor of musicology at the University of Turku 1986-2005 and Chairman of the Society of Finnish Composers 1992-2010. He was also Deputy Chairman of the Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto. Heiniö is composer-in-residence of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra.

The main items in Heiniö’s oeuvre are his four operas, the nine piano concertos and three symphonies (Possible Worlds (1987), Songs of Night and Love (1997) and Sinfonia Concertante for Percussion and Orchestra (2017). Other orchestral works include the song cycle Vuelo de alambre (1983), Wind Pictures for choir and orchestra (1991), Envelope for trumpet and orchestra (2002, intended to be performed before and after the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb), Sonata da chiesa (2005) scored for brass, celesta and percussion, Alla madre (2007) for violin and orchestra, Syyskesän laulu (Late Summer Song, 2009) for soloist and orchestra (or piano) and Event Horizon (2012) for wind orchestra.

He has also written a wealth of chamber works for a variety of instruments such as Framtidens skugga (The Shadow of the Future) for soprano and brass ensemble (1980), Piano Trio (1988), Piano Quintet (1993), Sextet (2000) for baritone and ensemble,  Treno della notte (2000) for clarinet, cello and piano, Café au lait (2006) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano and Canzona (2006) for string trio. His work list also includes solo pieces especially for piano and guitar.

Heiniö’s series of piano concertos explore the worlds of choral music, dance, opera and jazz with a disregard for artistic borders. They are hybrids with unconventional instrumentations as the composer feels that “every work should succeed in conjuring up something unique”. The fourth piano concerto Genom kvällen (Through the Evening) is also a choral work. The sixth and seventh piano concertos Hermes (1994) and Khora (2001) were composed as dance works in close partnership with the ERI Dance Theatre. Hermes is scored for piano, soprano and string orchestra, while Khora has five percussion players instead of an orchestra. Both concertos can also be performed as concert versions. Moon Concerto (Piano Concerto No. 7 for mezzo-soprano, piano and orchestra) was commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Nonno (Piano Concerto No. 9 for amplified piano and big band) by the UMO Jazz Orchestra.

Mikko Heiniö is also a composer of choral music, such as Three Folk Songs (1977), Landet som icke är (The Land that is Not, 1980) and Luceat (1992). His large-scale choral works Maria Suite and Ilta (The Evening) have both been recorded by the Key Ensemble – a choir which has often peformed and premiered Heiniö’s works. Other choral pieces are Täällä, kaikkialla (Here, Everywhere, 2021) commissioned and recorded by the Polytech Choir and and Ehtooveisut (2020) commissioned by the Key Ensemble and Krysostomos Chamber Choir.

Heiniö has composed four operas. The church opera Riddaren och draken (The Knight and the Dragon, 2000) was written for Turku Cathedral’s 700th anniversary celebrations and it has been recorded on the BIS label. His second opera Käärmeen hetki (The Hour of the Serpent) was commissioned by the Finnish National Opera and premiered in 2006. Erik XIV was a commission from the City of Turku, and it tells about the Swedish King Eric XIV (1533-1577) and his wife, Karin Månsdotter. In Heiniö’s latest opera Johanna the libretto by Pirkko Saisio weaves together the stories of 15th-century Joan of Arc and Johanna, a 21st-century drama-queen entertainer. On the surface, the story is about two provocative, charismatic women – but also their abuse and exploitation

Heiniö’s music has been described as sensual, rhythmic and easily accessible. Basic features of his style are its colourful, impressionistic sonority and energetic rhythms displaying the influence of Latin-American music, jazz and rock. In the 1980s, particularly, he went in for marked contrasts of style within one and the same work (as in Possible Worlds). In the Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (2012-13) the organ at times dances to the beat of an old Italian Saltarello, while at others it engages in sustained, intense dialogue with the orchestra creating an impressive, sublime atmosphere steeped in colour. Heiniö’s 3rd symphony, Symphony Concertante for Percussion and Orchestra (2017) was a commission by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra for a premiere in May 2018. A Turku University commission was the cantata Syvyyden yllä tuuli (Wind above the Depths) premiered in 2020. Heiniö’s Koraaleja (Chorales) composed in 2020-21 consists of two overlapping works: a Concerto for Kantele, Violin and String Orchestra, and settings of three poems by Lassi Nummi for violin, kantele and strings. A recent work is the Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Choir – another proof of Heiniö’s unusual combination of instruments.

Heiniö also has a reputation as a music scholar, as the author of several books and nearly two hundred articles. He specialises in new Finnish music, a subject on which he has written works focusing on the history of ideas (such as his doctoral dissertation The Idea of Innovation and Tradition, 1984) and the history of composition. His book Aikamme musiikki (1995) is volume 4 of the history of Finnish music that won the Finlandia Prize for non-fiction in 1997. Sanat sävelistä (1997) is a treatise on his own composition, his views on aesthetics and cultural policy, and his book Karvalakki kansakunnan kaapin päällä (1999) deals with the public image of Finnish opera.

[composer nimi=’Heiniö, Mikko‘]

Symphony No. 2 (Songs of Night and Love)
(II Silence of the Sea)

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Petri Sakari, sol. Tommi Hakala
(Sony Music 88697 630212)

Alla madre, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra
(II Aura)

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Petri Sakari, sol. Kurt Nikkanen
(Sony Music 88697 630212)

The Knight and the Dragon (Act 2, Scene 4)
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Turku Opera Chorus, cond. Ulf Söderblom, sol. Charlotte Hellekant, Helena Juntunen, Curt Appelgren, Rúni Brattaberg etc.
(BIS Records CD-1246)

Possible Worlds (IV Mobile e sonore)
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Jacques Mercier
(Finlandia Records CD-3984-23404-2)

Vuelo de alambre (IV Fué anoche)
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Jacques Mercier, sol. Karita Mattila
(Finlandia Records CD-3984-23404-2)

Ilta – Evening (XIV Aftonbön (Evening Prayer)
Key Ensemble/Teemu Honkanen (Fuga-9409)

Tomumieli (Mind of Dust)
for TTBB choir and djebe drum
YL Male Voice Choir, cond. Matti Hyökki
(Finlandia Records CD-3984-23404-2)

April Evenings for Black Twins
for 2 pianos
Ursula von Lerber & Christian Erbslöh