"The last waltz"

A chamber ensemble work with the echoes of a life lived raising questions of eternity

Viimeinen ValssiSatu Maria
00:00 / 02:50


What started as a piano improvisation in a nursery home workshop, evolved to a duo debut and climaxed as my first chamber ensemble arrangement premiered in Sellosali, Espoo.

What all can be born out of a one fleeting moment when you are present and capture it with care? The journey of this work helped me to integrate my main compositional tool "free improvisation", to aspects of community art, composing and arranging. 

Viimeinen Valssi - "The Last Waltz" tells a story of an elderly man 

reminiscing the moments shared with his beloved whom he misses dearly. 

The work is composed first as a commission for a horn-piano duo and later as a chamber ensemble arrangement for French Horn, string quartet and piano, which was premiered in Tapiola Sinfonietta's chamber music concert "Con Corno" by the horn soloist Pasi Pihlaja.



Three stages of the journey the piece took over the course of 2,5 years were each a discovery of how a musical idea eventually develops to a larger work.


During my artist residency in 2017 I was working with elderly people conducting workshops in a nursery home called "Volskoti". The workshops consisted of series of live piano improvisations, which evoked memories and stories of the elderly people. Read more about the project here.

In one of the piano improvisation workshops the melodic and harmonic content was born in the moment, which later on was further developed over the course of 2,5 years. The audio clip is from the live piano improvisation workshop that I conducted.


Viimeinen Valssi was first a commission for a horn-piano duo, which was premiered in the opening of Soile Kortesalmi's art exhibition "Kohtaamisen muotokuvia" (Portraits of an encounter) in February 2018. The audio clip is a live recording of the opening concert, performers: Pasi Pihlaja/ horn, myself/ piano.



The last phase of the piece was a commissioned arrangement for a chamber ensemble of string quartet, piano and French horn. It was premiered under the umbrella of The Tapiola Sinfonietta  ‒ the orchestra of the City of Espoo, in Pasi Pihlaja's solo concert "Con Corno" in December 2019. In addition to composing and arranging the piece, I also joined the performing ensemble as a pianist. 

(Due to copyright restrictions the provided audio is not a concert recording, but a Logic generated MIDI mockup I have made of the score).

2019-12-09 16.37.01.jpg



The narrative for the work is taken from the stories of an elderly man sharing his longing for his deceased wife.

Viimeinen Valssi - "The Last Waltz" tells a story of an elderly man 

reminiscing the moments shared with his beloved whom he misses dearly. 

"The Last Waltz" echoes the bittersweet longings and the endearing moments of a life lived. It reminisces the good, grieves the past mistakes, evokes the questions of eternity.

A note from a composer's diary: 

"Maybe that slow waltz is the one you would have wanted to dance with her once more. Maybe that slow waltz reminded you of all those memories, those many times you had danced with her. The words you would've wanted to say to her, but you didn't - and the ones you wished afterwards that you would've not said. Perhaps there was present the dance of life that you got to dance with her. All its joys and sorrows, successes and failures, all that richness, the whole spectrum of life, shared with her… and she was gone; away, but not. She was always with you."


The outcome



Ready score with all the parts. Exciting moment of sharing it

with the live performers.



Working as a composer

with a soloist >


One of the best ways ever in getting to know any instrument in depth is the privilege of working with a seasoned professional.

At its best, a collaboration with a solo instrumentalist is a beautiful blend of a learning experience, bouncing musical ideas back and forth - and having a lot of FUN in the making! I got to experience all of this.

Writing for

live performers  >

String Quartet

Coming from a pop-jazz background, prior to this project "Viimeinen Valssi" I had not composed for musicians in

a more classical setting. 

Getting my composition performed in a live event was a significant upgrade for me as a composer and gave me insight into writing for classical musicians.

Merging the professional roles of a composer and a performing artist >


As well as taking time for composing, it's important to keep up with the performance preparations.

Even own works take time to practise. It's good to change hats and collaborate as a musician with musicians.

Writing for a string section >

Image by Ira Selendripity

Writing for strings was a great enjoyment for me! Arranging original jazz harmonies and learning voice leading inside a  string section were some of the biggest takeouts from this project.

Writing a score

with Sibelius 8 >


I learned a great deal of different details on how to use Sibelius notation software better. 

As a result I am capable of making a professional looking score with ease, extracting and editing parts and providing sheet music of my compositions

to be performed. 

Combining audio

and visual elements >


I discovered even more strongly that visual elements are an integral part of my creative process of composing.

I draw inspiration from pictures, and visual material helps me to connect with the emotional landscape of

the music better. 

Like what you hear?

Let's chat.