Marja Rantanen is a Finnish composer born in Turku, Finland, on September 29, 1939. She is one of the rare Finnish composers of the 20th century, the only Finnish composer of atonal music of that time.
Her father Ilmari Rantanen was a high-level athlete in wrestling. He passed away after a heart attack when Marja was only ten years old. He had always encouraged his daughter to pursue her love for music and used to sit down next to her to listen to her playing the piano. Her mother, née Rauha Ketola, was a philanthropist of great courage. Among other philanthropist activities, she supported Jews fleeing the USSR during the Iron Curtain and passing through Finland on their way to the newly born State of Israel, providing them with essential products and collecting donations to help them pursue their journey. Marja spent her childhood in a girls boarding school. Her elder brother Jack Rantanen moved to Canada, and settled in Vancouver.
Marja Rantanen graduated from the Sibelius Academy of Music of Helsinki and worked for some time with Finnish singer Tamara Lund. She completed her musical studies at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver. There she met French scientist Jean Maruani. They married on February 28, 1969, in Paris and had three children together: Nathalie, Annabel and Jerome. Some poems written by daughter Nathalie served as the lyrics of Marja’s compositions. Her daughter Annabel became a renown Professor in dermatology, and her son Jerome followed a spiritual life path. In Paris, Marja went on studying music with stochastic music composer Iannis Xenakis (in 1973-74).
It is in Paris, where she settled in 1969, that Marja Rantanen composed almost all of her works. Feeling at times exiled, because of the language and cultural gap, she reconnected to her Finnish roots, the folklore of her country, the silent snowy winters, the inner storms of a quiet people, and she composed, year after year, some thirty pieces of music – on her piano or on her kitchen table. These include piano and violin duets, sonatas, symphonies and three operas.
As she was brought up in a Protestant environment in her childhood, in which people loved, and identified with, the Hebrew people, Marja found the Bible to be her main source of inspiration. Her compositions have a classic base with a strong atonal influence. She has written compositions inspired by the Bible, and also by the Kalevala. She also has a few strongly atonal universal compositions. Marja Rantanen played her compositions in Paris, Turku, Helsinki, Sofia and Vancouver.
This website aims to present Marja Rantanen and bring back what could be found and gathered from her musical activity.