Composer in profile

Markus Virtanen (born 7.11.1984) is a Finnish composer and musicologist based in Helsinki, Finland. He studied composition with Lotta Wennäkoski and Jovanka Trbojević and graduated from the University of Helsinki in musicology with excellent remarks in 2017. Since fall 2018 he has continued his studies in the prestigious Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts of Helsinki as a doctoral student.

Virtanen’s music has been performed in many festivals and concerts around Finland, such as the Helsinki Festival, Musica nova Helsinki, Helsinki Organ Summer and Tampering. Besides his native country, Virtanen’s music has been performed in China, Estonia, Iceland and Sweden.

Broad melodic lines, strong atmospheres and shameless use of different musical styles have all been characteristic of Virtanen’s music. Besides musical attributes, in recent years Virtanen has become increasingly interested in the societal aspect of his music. In his second opera Säveltäjä Ann-Elise Hannikainen (2015) he gave a voice to the forgotten Finnish composer Ann-Elise Hannikainen (1946–2012). Based on historical sources, the opera made its audience to reflect the way historical narratives are being created. Who has the right to decide, who is being remembered and how?

In 2019 Virtanen finished his Cantata on the 1st Sunday after Money Laundering, which was funded by the Kone Foundation. In this work Virtanen’s aim to make an impact is even clearer. The Cantata brings into daylight the strong tradition of criticizing property and money that can be found throughout the Bible.

Virtanen’s Cantata is the first one in a series of four cantatas that asks: Why is the Christian Church so silent about poverty still existing in a society that idealizes a capitalist belief in endless economic growth? Why so many Christian denominations are instead focusing in demonizing people’s sexualities if they fall out of the very narrow spectrum set as the valid norm? Shouldn’t we do more about the injustice, misery and distress that climate change is bringing upon humanity and the whole creation?

Along with his activity in composing and humanities Markus Virtanen has worked as a radio journalist in the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE since 2007.