Commissioned Musequal Festival (Kokonainen)
Opus number 47
Category Chamber Music
Year 2016
Duration 14
Orchestration violin & viola
Availability Gehrmans Musikförlag

Program note

Celestial Beings was commissioned by the first Musequal Festival organised in 2016 for the two founders: Linda Suolahti and Mari Viluksela, a duo for violin and viola. The name of the piece is “Celestial Beings” and the movements are named after the greek goddesses, by which they were inspired: I.Aphrodite II.Persephone III.Athena.  

The idea behind the commission was that the piece would in some way address femininity and particularly ‘divine femininity.’ After giving it some thought, I decided to approach this request based on ancient Greek myths, as these stories have fascinated me with their abundant and colorful events since childhood. The piece thus took shape as a series of three portraits, each dedicated to a goddess.

The goddess of love, Aphrodite, was born from the waves of the sea, and her playful nature and beautiful presence are enchanting. However, she is also temperamental and can be a quick-tempered wielder of power.

Persephone, the daughter of the god of grain and fruits, Demeter, is abducted from the world of the living to become the wife of Hades in the Underworld. She spends four months of the year in the Underworld, during which time her mother prohibits the plants from growing. When Persephone returns home after four months, the plants can grow again – spring has arrived.

The king of the gods, Zeus, suffers from a headache and decides to strike an axe into his head to relieve the pain. From this self-help act, Athena is born, the goddess of war, knowledge, and wisdom, already dressed in battle gear at her birth. In war, everything is allowed, and the cunning symbols of the snake and spider are often associated with the majestic and wise Athena.



Moving on in time and space, Damström’s Celestial Beings, op. 47 (2016) for violin and viola is given in exquisite rendition by its dedicatees. Cast in three movements, the fifteen minute score is vintage Damström – vivid sonic narratives woven into almost cinematic sceneries of splendid musical imagination, wholeheartedly embraced by Suolahti and Viluksela.


Commissioned by the first Musequal Festival, Celestial Beings addresses the idea of divine femininity in three dramatic episodes drawn from ancient Greek myths, making the most of its combination of two string instruments, occasionally enhanced by otherworldly lines of song, whistle and whisper.


The first portrait presents us with Aphrodite, whose birth from the waves of the sea is depicted in splendid onomatopoeia of superimposed ripples of glissandi, out of which molto espressivo e legato lines emerge in hazy dynamics. However, the tranquil mood soon gives over to bursts of quick-tempered textures, rising to one tremendous vortex, before resolving into misty coda.     


Primed with pastoral opening, the central tale of Persephone assumes sulphureous overtones as the daughter of the god of grain and fruits is abducted to the Underworld to become the wife of Hades, accompanied by string noises resulting from slow bowings in high pressure. Whistles and whispers merge with string lines, as the winter months slowly pass in the Land of the Dead. Heralding a new spring, Persephone returns, breaking through the frozen landscape, setting a new cycle of seasons in motion.


In the closing movement, the two string instruments go berserk with tremolo textures, presenting us with the great headache of Zeus, out of which Athena is born, heralded by celestial migraine of lightning and thunder. Befittingly for the goddess of war, knowledge and wisdom, her presence comes in many guises, including those of snakes and spiders, all woven into the joint fabric of violin and viola with resplendent musical inspiration. The element of danger is tangible as Suolahti and Viluksela venture through the score, delivering an absolutely riveting reading.

Jari Kallio, Adventures in Music 25.2.2024


In her composition “Celestial Beings,” Cecilia Damström never ceases to surprise her audience with her creativity and imagination. The piece, written for violin and viola, might initially raise some reservations, but one is bound to be amazed. The effects are wholly orchestral, almost sonorous in the manner of Penderecki, especially when both instruments explore unconventional registers. For Damström, programs seem to be of some importance, although in her case, it appears that her music is so vivid and skillful that it stands on its own merit. As Arnold Schering once remarked, a literary program is to a composer like scaffolding: once the composition is complete, they can be dismantled. Nevertheless, this time the programs were quite intriguing and enjoyable even for a Latinist, as they referred to three female figures from ancient mythology: Aphrodite, Persephone, and Athena. They were somewhat reminiscent of La Bruyère’s “Portraits” and seemed to engage in a kind of dialogue with certain individuals. When the music unfolded in unexpectedly beautiful sonorities, it shattered as the musical actor vehemently argued something. This is indeed “Musik als Klangrede” (music as speech in sound). The duo of Suolahti and Mari Viluksela was so impressive and cohesive that the effects felt as if they originated from a large ensemble.

Eero Tarasti, Amfion 2.2.2024


Cecilia Damström’s “Celestial Beings” was an intense and intriguing encounter between the violin (Sofie Sunnerstam) and the viola (Mina Luka Fred). Up high through flageolet tones flickered and fluttered as first Aphrodite took form, gradually intensifying. Thoughtfully applied, extended playing techniques with whistles and whispered hisses then bridged towards a more enigmatic manifestation of Persephone, repeating the structure of the first part with a short but meaningful coda. As knowledge and wisdom arrive, the atmosphere livens, and the brisk initial sequence of Athena condenses into pizzicato playfulness.

Jari Hoffrén, JälkiKAIKUJA korvaKÄYTÄVILTÄ Blog 3.8.2023


Damström’s Celestial Beings (2016) for violin and viola presents the listener with scintillating sonic threads, some played on strings, others hummed and whistled, yielding to the most refined aural experience.

Jari Juhani Kallio, Finnish Music Quarterly 25.5.2022



27th of August 2016 World premiere at Hämeenlinna City Hall by Linda Suolahti and Mari Viluksela at the Musequal FestivalMore info

CANCELLED – 6 of December 2020 at Janakkala Church – More info

21st of May 2022 at Janakkala Church by Linda Suolahti and Mari Viluksela at the Musequal FestivalMore info

23rd of November 2022 by Norrbotten NEO at the Schauman Hall at the RUSK festivalMore info

25th of November 2022 by Norrbotten NEO at Jakobstad’s Museum at the RUSK festivalMore info 

9th of July 2023 by Norrbotten NEO at Viitasaari Chruch at the Time of Music festival More info

23rd of November 2023 “Unrecorded.” Album Release by Linda Suolahti – More info

24th of February 2024 “Unrecorded.” Album Release ConcertMore info

15th of June 2024 by Otto Antikainen and Ulla Knuuttila at Toivakan kamarimusiikkiMore info

30th of June 2024 by Pippa Sieppala and Hanna Hohti at Sysmä Summer SoundsMore info