Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996) — Surusoitto (Funeral Music) (1969) for organ
Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996) was one of the most important and beloved Finnish composers of the 20th century, and widely considered the most important figure in Finnish music cultural life after Sibelius. Kokkonen studied at the Sibelius Academy and was a member of its faculty from 1950–63. After 1963, he taught composition privately and began a very active career in Finnish cultural life, working tirelessly to improve the status of classical music and the standards of music education. Kokkonen served as chairman of a vast number of Finnish cultural organizations, including the Society of Finnish Composers, the Board of the Concert Centre, the Board of the Sibelius Academy, and the Finnish Composers’ International Copyright Bureau. His musical style can be broadly divided into several periods: a first period distinguished by neo-classicism; a second 12-tone period; and a third eclectic, neo-romantic period that lasted from 1967 until his final works of the late 1980s. Nearly all of his most famous and beloved works date from this third period, including his fourth symphony, his cello concerto, and his opera “The Last Tempations,” which is widely considered to the most famous Finnish opera. It premiered in Finland in 1975 and has since had over 300 performances worldwide, including its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1983.