Segerstam, Leif (Selim)

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Segerstam, Leif (Selim)

Segerstam, Leif (Selim), prominent Finnish conductor and composer; b. Vaasa, March 2, 1944. He studied violin and conducting (diplomas in both, 1963) and also took courses in composition with Fougstedt, Kokkonen, and Englund at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. He then was a student of Persinger (violin), Overton and Persichetti (composition), and Morel (conducting) at the Juilliard School of Music in N.Y., where he took his diploma (1964) and postgraduate diploma (1965). In the summer of 1964 he also attended Suss-kind’s conducting course at the Aspen (Colo.) Music School. After conducting at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki (1965–68), he became a conductor at the Royal Theater in Stockholm in 1968. He was made its principal conductor in 1970 and its music director in 1971. In 1972–73 he held the post of first conductor at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. In 1973–74 he was general manager of the Finnish National Opera. He was chief conductor of the Austrian Radio Sym. Orch. in Vienna (1975–82) and the Finnish Radio Sym. Orch. in Helsinki (1977–87), and also was Generalmusikdirector of the State Phil, in Rheinland-Pfalz (1983–89). From 1989 to 1995 he was chief conductor of the Danish National Radio Sym. Orch. in Copenhagen. In 1995 he became chief conductor of the Helsinki Phil., and in 1997 prof. of conducting at the Sibelius Academy. In 1999 he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize. He was to assume the position of music director of the Finnish National Opera in 2001. Segerstam is one of the most prolific composers of his era. He composes in what he describes as a “freely pulsative” style. Among his works are 8 violin concertos (1967–93), 2 piano concertos (1977, 1981), 19 syms. (1977–94), 8 cello concertos (1981–93), a series of Thoughts for Orch. (1987 et seq.), 27 string quartets (1962–90), 4 string trios (1977–91), many other chamber pieces, piano music, organ pieces, and many songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire