Leif Selim Segerstam (// LAYF, Swedish pronunciation: [lejf ˈseːɡərstam]; born 2 March 1944 in Vaasa, Ostrobothnia, Finland) is a Finnish conductor, composer, violinist, violist and pianist, especially known for his 286 symphonies, along with his other works in his extensive œuvre.
Segerstam has conducted in a variety of orchestras since 1963, mostly American, Australian and European orchestras. He is widely known through his recorded discography, which includes the complete symphonies of Blomdahl, Brahms, Mahler, Nielsen, and Sibelius, as well as many works by contemporary composers, such as the American composers John Corigliano and Christopher Rouse, the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, Swedish composer Allan Pettersson and the Russian composers Alfred Schnittke and Alexander Scriabin.
Leif Segerstam was born 2 March 1944 in Vaasa, to Selim Segerstam and Viola Maria Kronqvist, into a musical family. Selim made several song books as a living. The Segerstams then moved to Helsinki in 1947. In Leif's time in school, he played the violin and the viola in Helsinki's Youth Orchestra.
Leif's debut concert as a violinist was in 1962, and his conducting debut was in 1963, with Rossini's Barber of Seville, in Tampere. The premiere made him hired to conduct the Finnish National Opera, and a year later, he conducted the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He conducted modern works, such as Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Shostakovich's 1st symphony.
He studied violin, piano and conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and received a diploma in conducting in 1963. He studied conducting as well at the Juilliard School in New York with Jean Morel, he received the diploma in 1965.
Segerstam served as chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra from 1995 to 2007, and now holds the title of Chief Conductor Emeritus with the orchestra. He has held positions with numerous other orchestras, including the Danish National Radio Symphony and the Austrian Radio Symphony, and has guest-conducted many orchestras throughout the world including the Chicago Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony and the Brazilian OSESP – the Symphony Orchestra of the State of São Paulo. He is also the professor of conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. His students include Susanna Mälkki, Mikk Murdvee, Sasha Mäkilä and Markku Laakso.
As a composer, he is known especially for his numerous symphonies, which are 286 as of 2015. Most of his symphonies are written with the principles of ~20 minute works, that are in one movement, and are performed without conductors. This is partially inspired by Sibelius' 7th symphony. Of these, over a hundred have been performed.
He developed a personal approach to aleatory composition through a style called "free pulsation" in which musical events interact flexibly in time, and this composition method is persistent throughout his œuvre, most notably in his "Orchestral Diary Sheets". This method was first used in his 5th String Quartet, the "Lemming Quartet".
Among Segerstam's juvenilia from 1960–1969, are four string quartets from 1962–1966, and the post-impressionist ballet Pandora from 1967, which are usually labeled as being from his "Post-Expressionist" period.
He was married to the violinist Hannele Angervo (concertmaster of the Finnish RSO), with whom he had two children. After Segerstam's divorce from Hannele, he married the Helsinki Philharmonic harpist Minnaleena Jankko in 2002, with whom he had three children. In 2009, it was announced that their marriage would end. His first two children with Angervo were Jan and Pia. Pia is a professional cellist; Jan is a business man. His three children with Jankko were Violaelina (born 1997), Selimoskar (born 1998) and Iirisilona (born 1999).
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- 286 Symphonies (as of 2015[ref])
- 30 String quartets
- 13 Violin concertos
- 8 Cello concertos
- 4 Viola concertos
- 4 Piano concertos
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|Principal Conductor, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, Danish National Symphony Orchestra
|Principal Conductor, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
|Professor of conducting, Sibelius Academy