Veli-Matti Puumala (born 18 July 1965) established himself as one of Finland’s most talented composers during the 1990s. He studied with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki from 1984 to 1993 and attended Franco Donatoni’s courses at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena in 1989 and 1990. Since 2005 he has been Professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. In 2011 he was awarded the Erik Bergman Jubilee Prize in recognition of his excellent, versatile work continuing the ethical and spiritual tradition of Modernism.
Puumala’s music has been featured extensively at several festivals in Scandinavia and Europe, including the ISCM World Music Days in Zurich, the Nuove Sincronie concert series in Milan, the Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam, the Ars Musica Festival in Brussels, the Musica Festival in Strasbourg and the Lerchenborg Music Days in Denmark.
Ranking among Puumala’s principal works are his trilogies. The Chain trilogy for orchestra dates from 1994-97 (Chant Chains, Chains of Camenae and Chainsprings) and another (with epilogue) for ensemble includes Verso, Scroscio, Ghirlande and Tutta via. He has also written two concertos: Taon for double bass and orchestra, and Seeds of Time for piano and orchestra premiered in Helsingborg in 2004. His other works include Mure (2008), commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Memorial Fragment (2008) commissioned by the Kaustinen Chamber Music Festival, Rope (2012) commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company and Root, commissioned and premiered by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 2017. In December 2022 the Finnish Radio Orchestra premiered Puumala’s Violin Concerto Tree of Memories, a Finnish RSO commission, which deals with memory and the loss of memories.
Puumala has composed a wealth of ensemble and chamber works, such as Soira (1996) for accordion and 7 players, Umstrichen vom Schreienden (1997-98) for six cellos, Capriccio (2002) for 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos and the highly-acclaimed String Quartet (1994), which represents a turning point in his stylistic and technical approach. He has also written an opera, Anna Liisa, premiered at the Helsinki Festival in 2008. The CD released by Ondine Records has been a success and according to the review in Gramophone the opera is something special and deserves wide circulation outside its native land.
The music of Veli-Matti Puumala has a strong dynamic charge and tension. He exploits to the full the potential of the expressive means available in a refined and energetic way and is known to be a composer who has valued the ideals of Modernism throughout his career. The materials in his stylistic palette are clearly Postserial, yet he nevertheless aspires towards a mixture of rich timbres. His writing frequently displays a complex fabric bristling with activity, beneath which are structures designed to produce clarity, drama and contrast.
His music has been recorded on Jase (Voices Stringing – portrait CD of Puumala) and Ondine labels (e.g. Seeds of Time).
Anna Liisa [complete opera]
Opera in Three Acts
for soloists and orchestra: 2121-2220-02-pf-str (9vl, 3vla, 3vc, 3cb)
for string sextet
2vl, 2vla, 2vc
Chains of Camenae
2(I+picc.II+picc/altfl)1(+c.ing)2(I+escl.II+cl.b)1(+c.fg)-21(=in C)1(=basstrb)0-02-pf(+perc)-str(min 22321)
Chant Chains [original version with harp]
for 11 players
Chant Chains [percussion version]
for 11 players
01(+c.ing)1(+cl.b)1-0100-01-pf-str(11111) Perc: Marimba, vibrafono,Glockenspiel, 5 Thai gongs, 3 piatti sospesi, tam tam grande, triangolo, 2 timpani, 6 tom-toms, gran cassa
1(+picc+perc)01(+cl.b+perc)0-0000-pf(+perc)-violin, violoncello, double bass(+perc)
Music for 16 singers (2010-11/2013)
Hart, kurz - weich, innig
for piano quintet
2 violins, viola, cello, piano
Line to Clash
for violin obligato and string orchestra
solo violin + str(54432)
1(+bfl).1(+c.ing).2(I+cl.b,II=ssax).1(+cbn)-22.214.171.124-0.2-pf-str(2vln, 2vla, 2vc, 1 db)
for string orchestra (2012-13)
3(I-III+picc;II+afl)3(II+ca;III=ca)3(I+Ebcl;III+bcl)3(III=cfg)-4331-13-2hp-str(16-14-12-10-8) Percussion 1: 4 Timpani, Vibrafono, 3 Klangschalen, 3 Almglocken, 3 Plattenglocken, 2 Thai Gongs, 5 Wood blocks, Caisse Claire, 2 Bongos, Tam Tam, Bubble wrap, Ocean drum, 2 Honeycomb cardboard wedges Percussion 2: Marimba, 2 Klangschalen, 2 Almglocken, 3 Plattenglocken, 2 Thai Gongs, Caisse Claire, 4 Tom toms, Gran cassa, Pedal Bass drum, Hi-hat, Chinese Cymbal, 2 Cymbals, 2 Honeycomb cardboard wedges, Large cardboard bag, 3 Timpani Percussion 3: Crotales, 4 Klangschalen, 3 Almglocken, 3 Plattenglocken, 2 Tubular Bells, Raganella (Very large Ratchet), 4 Tom toms, Gran cassa, Hi-hat, Spring coil, Chinese Cymbal, 2 Cymbals, Tam Tam, 2 Honeycomb cardboard wedges, Small cardboard bag, 3 Timpani
Seeds of Time
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2004)
for accordion and instrumental ensemble
fl+picc+afl/ob+cor ingl/cor/trb/va/cb/perc + four ad-hoc groups of performers (wind and string instruments)
Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (1998-2000)
2(I+picc.II+picc,afl).2(II+c.ing).2(II+clpicc, bcl).2(II+cbn)-126.96.36.199-0.1-str: 6 vlA, 2 vlaA, 1 vcA, 9 vlB, 3 vlaB, 2 vcB, 3 db (vlA1 and B1, vcA, vlaB1 play also perc. instruments)
22(II=ca)2(II=bcl)2-2200-01-str(97543) Percussione: 4 Timpani (23’’, 25-26’’, 28-29’’, 30-32’’), High drum, Slit drum, Bass drum, Suspended cymbal (large), Thai gong (E), 2 Crotales (c3, c2), Silofono, Vibrafono, 3 Wood blocks, Bongos, Wooden or metal plate, Large thick wooden surface, Plastic ruler (50 cm), 3 Plastic rulers (50 cm each) attached on a wooden surface. In addition to normal mallets friction sticks, superball mallets with a flexible shaft and one long wood stick are needed.
Tree of Memories
Concerto for violin and orchestra (2015-2020)
Umstrichen vom Schreienden
for 6 violoncellos
Verso [Seconda versione]
Anna Liisa (opera, Act 1, Lullaby)
Tapiola Sinfonietta, cond. Nils Schweckendiek, sol. Helena Juntunen
(Ondine Records 1254-2D)
Seeds of Time (Piano Concerto)
Tampere PO, cond. Hannu Lintu, sol. Roland Pöntinen
(Alba Records ABCD 319)
Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, cond. Leif Segerstam
(Ondine Records CD-866-2)
String Quartet (I Introduzione)
New Helsinki Quartet (Jan Söderblom, Petri Aarnio, Ilari Angervo, Marko Ylönen)
(Ondine Records CD-984-2S)
Tampere PO, cond. Hannu Lintu
(Alba Records ABCD 319)