Sampo Haapamäki wins the 2020 Nordic Council Music Prize

27.10.20 | News
Sampo Haapamäki
Nordisk kulturkontakt/Seppo Samuli

Sampo Haapamäki received the Nordlys statuette during a small ceremony at Nordic Culture Point in Helsinki after winning the 2020 Nordic Council Music Prize.

Finnish composer Sampo Haapamäki has won the 2020 Nordic Council Music Prize for the work Konsertto neljäsosasävelaskelpianolle ja kamariorkesterille (Quarter-tone Piano Concerto). It is a unique combination of natural musicality, impressive craftsmanship, and the never-ending exploration of the tradition.

Sampo Haapamäki received the prize from multi-instrumentalist and former winner Gyða Valtýsdóttir at a digital awards ceremony for the Nordic Council prizes for 2020 on Tuesday evening. COVID-19 meant that the awards ceremony could no longer take place in Iceland. The winners of the five Nordic Council prizes were instead revealed during a digital ceremony.


The prize is awarded on alternate years to, as this year, a work by a living composer in one year and to an ensemble or artist the next.


The 2020 Nordic Council Music Prize goes to Sampo Haapamäki’s Quarter-tone Piano Concerto. It is a unique combination of natural musicality, impressive craftsmanship, and the never-ending exploration of the tradition. It surprises the listener with an exuberant, novel, yet strangely familiar musical language, and keeps the attention of the listener right from the beginning until the very end with its virtuosic elaboration of details.


The concerto is a result of Haapamäki’s long journey of discovery: the composer even had to create a special instrument – the new quarter-tone piano – in order to write the music he wanted to create. Its complex universe of microtonality gently reminds us of some essential things that art can both offer and ask of us: sensitivity, patience, and reflection.


Central to Sampo Haapamäki’s oeuvre are the quarter-tones that he has been exploring in his compositional work for more than 15 years. He has composed acoustic music for various ensembles from orchestras to choirs, as well as electro-acoustic multichannel music. He has also helped to develop new instruments for the performance of quarter-tone music.


As a composer, Sampo Haapamäki has established his very own, distinctive voice - the voice that the committee is delighted to recognise with this prize.

About the Nordic Council’s prizes

The Nordic Council awards five prizes each year – for literature, film, music, the environment, and children’s and young people’s literature. Each prize of DKK 350,000 is awarded at a gala event during the annual Session of the Nordic Council.