Alex Ross has some supplementary comments to his recent New Yorker column on Kaija Saariaho's Adriana Mater. He concludes with the interesting observation that "The new mindset seems to be this: Never mind Schoenberg and Stravinsky, it's all about Debussy and Sibelius.'" As far as European music is concerned I think this is largely accurate. Or at least, as Finnish spectralism is having an increasing influence on European concert music, it makes sense. One should, however, pick at this phenomenon just a little. Much as I love spectral music, and have a fondness for many Finnish composers, it should be pointed out that the continuing rise of spectralism, and particularly its Finnish variant, is not just down to awesome choons. What helps, as I have frequently observed on these pages, is the Finn's particular talent and enthusiasm for new music promotion and organisation. The Finnish Music Information Centre is superb, and means I am more informed about current Finnish music than most other countries'. It also reflects the level of care and seriousness with which new music seems to be treated in Finland – and must surely be partly responsible for the strong seam of Finnish composition that we currently enjoy.
But what also helps is that so many of the top Finnish composers also make excellent conductors, and as a result new Finnish music is never far from the thoughts of many of the world's top orchestras and concert halls. In London in recent years there seems to be a celebration of new Finnish music every season. Right on cue, Kalevi Aho's new Clarinet Concerto is being premiered here tomorrow night by the BBC SO and Martin Fröst. It's no surprise, then, that Sibelius should be ripe for reconsideration since he is the national touchstone for so much of this music.
It's hard promotion, graft and the tough sell that shapes the canon – it's how we got so far into Schoenberg and Webern, for all their merits – and its good to think that the same mechanisms are now reshaping that canon in favour of everyone else.