two top classical singing contests. Before that, she did choral singing and musical theatre, Oliver Twist as an exchange student in Virginia and Little Orphan Annie in her hometown of Lahti. In 1992, Paasikivi was the Lahti Symphony Orchestra's young soloist of the year. Paasikivi still performs with the orchestra, making her BBC Proms debut last year with them with an all-Sibelius programme under conductor Osmo Vänskä. The Daily Telegraph called her "charismatic," saying she "revealed the marvellous directness of the composer's inspiration." Indeed, Sibelius has always inspired Paasikivi. "When I was 14, I played in my conservatory's symphony orchestra and we went on tour to Sweden," she recalls. "I was not a good violinist at all. I sat in the back row, almost behind the curtain, and had to make sure my bow was going the same way so no one would notice how bad I was! The last thing we played was Sibelius's `Finlandia' and I almost burst into tears when I played it. That's when I realised that as a Finn he means more to me than just music." MUSIC AND FAMILY ENTWINE Sibelius features prominently on Paasikivi's latest release, a selfpublished collection of 28 Finnish songs related to childhood. True to her style, Äidiltä lapselle ("From Mother to Child") is no kiddie pop disc, but a serious, beautiful, even haunting collection. Even when singing about a squirrel at play, her voice remains elegant, restrained, almost detached. "I work in big halls with thousands of people listening, so doing a recording like this with just a pianist in a studio was a wonderful format. It was very therapeutic to go into these soft nuances and try to find a bedroom atmosphere," she says. "I'm a true believer in the healing effect of sound. When my kids were small, I sang my opera repertoire to them in a soft voice, put them to sleep and massaged them a bit while singing some soft Wagner tune. I could sing lullabies in Russian or make-believe language; it always calmed them down." The CD set includes lullabies by Merikanto and Kuula as well as two other Finnish composers she often performs: Jean Sibelius and Erkki Melartin. She sang their music reissued on two other CDs out last year: Melartin's majestic, wordless 1912 vocalise on Music and Silence in Finnish Symbolism (Ondine), which accompanied an exhibition at the Ateneum Art Muse"I'm a true believer in the healing effect of sound." um, and Kullervo on the third volume of the epic 65-CD Sibelius Edition series (BIS). Paasikivi, who sang Sibelius on a three-city Chinese tour in June, describes his work as "the Finnish language in classical music world. His songs and Kullervo are certainly cornerstone pieces for me," she says. "On top of that, it's a nice curiosity that he was my husband's great-grandfather!" Her husband, Jaakko Ilves, teaches violin at the Sibelius Academy, which is near their home. So is the Finnish National Opera, where Paasikivi has been a principal soloist for a decade. Their ten-year-old daughter is a member of the chorus, making her debut last autumn as mom sang the lead in Carmen. "In my dreams, I would live in the countryside," says Paasikivi, "but with my kind of work this is the best solution: ten minutes from the curtain and I'm home, which is wonderful. I'd much rather walk to work than take an airplane! But more frequently, I take the plane." SHAMANISTIC SIBELIUS It was Paasikivi's "remarkable" performance of Kullervo that first made an impression on pianist, conductor and composer Olli Mustonen. "It simply felt as if one was hearing what the composer must have meant," he said last month after conducting Paasikivi with the Tapiola Sinfonietta, this time singing the alto part in Beethoven's `9th Symphony' which she will record next year for Decca. "It seems that whenever you walk onstage with Lilli, something special happens," says Mustonen. "She is able to throw herself at the service of music in a manner that is in a way shamanistic. This is a quality very few people have, and that is why it is always so memorable making music with her." In Tapiola, waiting onstage for her lines in a crimson dress, Paasikivi seemed lost in SEPTEMBER 2008 BLUE WINGS 33
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