Leif Selim Segerstam (/ˈleɪf/ LAYF, Swedish pronunciation: [lejf ˈseːɡərstam]; born 2 March 1944) is a Finnish conductor, composer, violinist, violist and pianist, especially known for his 316 symphonies as of October 2017, along with 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.
His contributions to the Finnish music scene and his vibrant personality have contributed to his fame.
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. Following the premiere, Segerstram was 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 the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra 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 many symphonies, which number 316 as of October 2017. Most of his symphonies last for about 20 minutes, are formed of a single movement and are performed without a conductor. This is partially inspired by Sibelius' 7th symphony. More than a hundred of Segerstam's symphonies 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".[further explanation needed] This method was first used in his 5th String Quartet, the "Lemming Quartet".
Among Segerstam's juvenilia (1960–1969) are four string quartets from 1962–1966, and the post-impressionist ballet Pandora from 1967. The quartets are usually labeled as being from his "Post-Expressionist" period.
In 2015 Segerstam began work on an opera, Völvan, with a libretto by Elisabeth Wärnfeldt.
He was married to the violinist Hannele Segerstam (fi) (concertmaster of the Finnish RSO), with whom he had two children, Jan and Pia. Pia is a professional cellist; Jan is a businessman. After Segerstam's divorce from Hannele, he married the Helsinki Philharmonic harpist Minnaleena Jankko in 2002, with whom he had three children: Violaelina (born 1997), Selimoskar (born 1998) and Iirisilona (born 1999). In 2009, it was announced that their marriage would end.
- 316 symphonies (as of October 2017)
- 30 string quartets
- 13 violin concertos
- 8 cello concertos
- 4 viola concertos
- 4 piano concertos
In 1999, he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for his work as a "tireless champion of Scandinavian Music."