HELSINKI (AP) — Einojuhani Rautavaara, arguably Finland's most famous classical composer since the era of Jean Sibelius, has died at the age of 87.
Rautavaara produced eight symphonies, seven operas, 14 concertos and dozens of other orchestral and vocal compositions. He achieved international fame with his seventh symphony, "Angel of Light," in 1994.
He was known for music that explored mystical and romantic themes, appreciated the mathematically precise application of 12-tone techniques, and employed innovative use of recorded bird song.
Reijo Kiilanen, managing director of Ondine Records that released most of his works, says Rautavaara died in a Helsinki hospital Wednesday following complications from hip surgery.
"Rautavaara deservedly is the first Finnish composer after Sibelius to make an international breakthrough," Kiilanen told The Associated Press. "Sibelius was great, but no other Finnish composer has made a similar breakthrough."
Ari Nieminen, publishing manager for the Fennica Gehrman publishing house that owns the the copyright to much of Rautavaara's music, called him "an intellectual and a mystical storyteller whose music was born from a longing for infinity."
Rautavaara kept creating music despite suffering a torn aorta in 2004.
"It was a miracle that he survived and, although he was a bit fragile, it didn't stop him working," said Kiilanen, whose company worked with the composer for more than 30 years. "He continued to compose in a masterly fashion."
Rautavaara studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and the Juilliard School in New York. He oversaw a new generation of composers from 1976 to 1990 as professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy, named after Finland's nationally honored composer, who died in 1957.
Rautavaara's works have been widely performed abroad including by the Philadelphia Orchestra, which commissioned him to compose his eighth symphony, "The Journey," for its 100th anniversary celebrations. The pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy commissioned his third piano concerto, completed in 1998.
Rautavaara once told The Associated Press he was lucky to be a musician in Finland, which gives generous grants to composers.
"Without grants, it would have been difficult for me to survive," Rautavaara said in a 1997 interview with the AP. "Luckily I can spend all day composing if I want to."
Rautavaara is survived by his wife and two sons. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.