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Doctoral candidate researches ancestor’s music

Ruusamari Teppo, doctoral candidate, and great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius“I was always at the piano,” says Ruusamari Teppo, above, describing her childhood in Finland. “When I was 14, I decided that I would become a musician.”

She has made good on that promise.

The great-granddaughter of composer Jean Sibelius, Teppo has played piano since her mother began teaching her at age four. She grew up in a musical household, attending a music primary school and a music high school. She describes the early music education in her home country as demanding.

Teppo was just 18 when she left her home near Helsinki to study in Paris, then Prague and Budapest, where she earned artistic certificates. She eventually enrolled at UNT to study with artist-in-residence Vladimir Viardo, professor of music, and previous winner of the Van Cliburn Competition. She stayed to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Now, Teppo is working toward a doctorate, writing her dissertation about her famous great-grandfather’s piano music.

“I’m researching his piano writing,” Teppo explains. “He is mostly known as an orchestral composer. He used specific techniques in his ways of composing for piano, which is the only instrument that can heard as a straight reflection of an orchestra. I’m researching how he actually wrote for piano, and how those two compositional styles interacted.”

She’s also keeping busy by performing. Teppo and has a dissertation recital scheduled for the first day of the spring semester. She will play a previously unpublished piano trio by Sibelius, which will be included in a collection of Sibelius’ complete works by Edition Breitkopf, a music publishing firm. 

“It’s very interesting to work with a major piece by a composer that has hardly been performed before,” says Teppo. “It is extremely challenging and exciting to work with the manuscripts without a ready image of the piece. There is a feeling of discovering a new territory!”

The trio also will be on a CD that she recorded in Finland, which will include several un-recorded works by her great grandfather. – Brooke Nottingham, student assistant, University Relations, Communications and Marketing

Posted on: Mon 09 January 2012

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