The 2020 Nordic Council Music Prize goes to Sampo Haapamäki’s Quarter-tone Piano Concerto. It is a unique combination of natural musicality, impressive craftsmanship, and the never-ending exploration of the tradition. It surprises the listener with an exuberant, novel, yet strangely familiar musical language, and keeps the attention of the listener right from the beginning until the very end with its virtuosic elaboration of details.
The concerto is a result of Haapamäki’s long journey of discovery: the composer even had to create a special instrument – the new quarter-tone piano – in order to write the music he wanted to create. Its complex universe of microtonality gently reminds us of some essential things that art can both offer and ask of us: sensitivity, patience, and reflection.
Central to Sampo Haapamäki’s oeuvre are the quarter-tones that he has been exploring in his compositional work for more than 15 years. He has composed acoustic music for various ensembles from orchestras to choirs, as well as electro-acoustic multichannel music. He has also helped to develop new instruments for the performance of quarter-tone music.
As a composer, Sampo Haapamäki has established his very own, distinctive voice - the voice that the committee is delighted to recognise with this prize.
Sampo Haapamäki is nominated for the Nordic Council Music Prize 2020 for the work Konsertto neljäsosasävelaskelpianolle ja kamariorkesterille [Quarter-tone Piano Concerto] (2017).
As a composer, Sampo Haapamäki (b. 1979) has established his very own voice, which has attracted considerable interest in Finland and internationally. Central to this are the quarter tones that he has been exploring in his compositional work for more than 15 years. Haapamäki has composed acoustic music for various ensembles from orchestra to choir, as well as electro-acoustic multichannel music. He has also helped to develop new instruments for the performance of quarter-tone music. Haapamäki’s piano concerto is a brilliant example of tonal art, in which innovation and diligent research work blend to become a natural part of the musical language. The work was premiered by the pianist Elisa Järvi and the chamber orchestra Avanti! in November 2017. The keyboard of the quarter-tone piano used in the performance is a joint design by Haapamäki and Järvi. The concerto is a unified, impressive whole in which Haapamäki’s journey of discovery over the years has been crystallised into an exuberant, strangely beautiful tonal language, and the quarter tones are played not only by the piano, but also by an entire chamber orchestra. The composer masters the comprehensive concerto form with a confident touch.