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Finnish composer-pianist Iiro Rantala (born 19.1.1970) studied at the Oulunkylä Pop & Jazz Conservatory and in the jazz programme of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. From 1991 to 1993 he attended the Manhattan School of Music, New York, majoring in classical piano.
A leading composer of jazz, Iiro Rantala has also written scores for musicals, films and numerous dance and theatre productions. His orchestral works include a popular Piano Concerto G# maj Ab (2003), the Christmas Oratorio (2011), a Double Concerto for violin, piano and orchestra ‘Joy of Life‘ (2020-21) and Seven O’Clock Overture (2021). Rantalas’ Veneziana (2021-22) has been a huge success and the reviews have called it “resolutely inspired, joyful, complex, fleeting, and visionary”. Scored for wind and string quintets and piano, Veneziana was first heard by members of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then it has received several performances and a recording by ACT. In this work Iiro pays tribute to Venice and links famous composers to the story of the city with an irresistible imagination and twist.
Rantala’s first opera, Pikaparantola (Sanatorio Express, 2018, to a libretto by Minna Lindgren), was composed as a commission from the Finnish National Opera and premiered in September 2018. His second opera, Die Zaubermelodika (The Magic Melodica) was commissioned by the Komische Oper Berlin for a premiere in Berlin in October 2021. A sequel to Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, the opera features the same cast – with a characteristic Rantala twist. With wit, humour and fun the opera cleverly exploits the Magic Flute plot. Papageno and Papageno have been blessed with a horde of offspring that make up the Papa Kids choir. Sarastro is suffering from memory loss and Monostatos becomes a hero in the leading role. The Queen of the Night is now the Queen of the Drag Night and sung by a baritone able to soar to countertenor heights. The English libretto by Minna Lindgren has been translated in German by Ulrich Lenz.
Iiro Rantala is also the founder and pianist of the Trio Töykeät, a Finnish jazz line-up that has won international acclaim and has been UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador since 1994. In 2007 Rantala founded the Iiro Rantala New Trio with guitarist Marzi Nyman and beatboxer Felix Zenger. A man of many talents, he is also familiar at home in Finland from his own TV and radio programmes.
Crossing musical and generic borders comes naturally to Rantala. He has been the soloist in Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and has performed Mozart’s A Major Piano Concerto with numerous orchestras. He has also played the Martinů Concerto for Two Pianos with Olli Mustonen as the other soloist. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen has been Rantala’s partner for many years, and their cooperation has resulted in discs of works by Mozart (2018) and Gershwin (2020).
The many distinctions bestowed on Iiro Rantala have included the Yrjö Reward of the Finnish Jazz Federation, a five-year grant from the National Council for Music (1998), a five-year grant from the Finnish Arts Council (2004) and the prestigious Pro Finlandia medal (2013). He has had an agreement with the German ACT label since 2010 and recorded ten solo albums in ten years.
Fennica Gehrman has published collections of Rantala’s piano and vocal works such as Ajatuksia (Pieces of My Mind, 10 jazzy tunes for piano) and Hymyilevä Apollo (Smiling Apollo, songs set to poems by Eino Leino). The study score of Veneziana is also available in our web shop.
opera in two acts
Libretto in English by Minna Lindgren Also available in German and Finnish 2222-2220-12-pf-str 11 soloists, children's chorus
G# Maj Ab
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2003)
2222-2200-12-str Timpani (+Tamburino, Chimes) Percussion: Drum set, Bongos, Cymbals a2, Suspended cymbal, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Triangle
for soprano, narrator, mixed choir and orchestra
1111-0000-01-pf-str(min.33221) Percussion: Timpani, Snare drum, Tambourine, Cymbal, Glockenspiel, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Tubular bells, Triangle, Castanets, Ratchet Text in Finnish by Jaakko Heinimäki
Joy of Life
Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Chamber Orch (2020)
2222-2200-02-str Percussion: Timpani, Drum set, Bongos, Cymbals, Suspended cymbal, Tamtam, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Tambourine, Triangle, 4 Wood blocks, Castanets, Maracas, Cabasa, Sand paper, Whip, Whistle, Vibraslap (Jawbone)
Sanatorium Express (2018)
chamber opera in two acts
Libretto in Finnish by Minna Lindgren Also available in Italian and English 1(+picc)1(+ca)11-1110-11-str Solo voices: 2 sopranos, mezzo-soprano, alto, 2 tenors, 2 barytones, bass
Seven O'Clock Overture
2222-2200-11-str Percussione: Timpani, Snare drum, Bongos, Cymbals, Suspended cymbal, Tamtam, Marimba, Xylophone, Vibraphone, Tambourine, Triangle, Wood blocks
for piano and chamber ensemble