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Saariaho - D'om le vrai sens
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Die Musik der mit zahlreichen renommierten Preisen ausgezeichneten Komponistin Kaija Saariaho hat einen kraftvollen, charakteristischen und augenblicklich wiedererkennbaren Stil: In der von ihr kreierten Klangwelt zischt und summt, brummt und bimmelt es, und wir meinen die Merkwürdigkeit des Seins zu hören. Einige wiederkehrende Themen in ihrem Werk sowohl in der Orchester- und Kammermusik als auch in ihren Opern - sind Licht und Raum, Suchen und Umherirren, Träumen und die Abläufe im menschlichen Körper.
The result is a filigree tone-poem with a soul of steel that showcases the Finnish Orchestral splendidly. --Gramophone,Dec'11
The recordings are excellent, capturing this rich yet elusively textured music without a hint of artificiality. Performance ***** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine,Jan'12
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The first piece here is "D'om le vrai sens" (2010), a clarinet concerto based on the medieval tapestries called "The Lady and the Unicon" which depict the five human senses and a mysterious sixth, "A mon seul desir". While Saariaho has written extensively for solo cello, violin and flute, this is her first work to focus on the clarinet, and its piercing timbre against the mysterious, post-Debussyean fog she's been exploring for some time does liven things up. The big appeal of the piece are the endless extended techniques through which Kriikku is put, all of which he handles expertly (and, anyone who has seen him in concert knows, effortlessly in a nearly disturbing way). The orchestral accompaniment, however, is nothing we haven't heard from Saariaho. Furthermore, the supposed programme of the human senses doesn't really come through, e.g. "Le Gout" doesn't evoke taste to me, nor "L'Odorat" smell.
"Laterna Magica" (2008) is a 25-minute single-movement work for orchestra, its title borrowed from that of Ingmar Bergma's autobiography, and the music evoking the eponymous toy with its whirling shapes with changing colours. At times, the players whisper lines to add to the mysterious atmosphere. Each rotation of the basic material adds more and more tension until we reach a a climax on brass and drums that is some of the most violent music that Saariaho has ever written. I enjoy this piece and would like to hear it in concert.
The "Leino Songs" (2007) are settings of four poems by Eino Leino for soprano and orchestra: "Sua katselen" (Looking at You), "Sydän" (The Heart), "Iltarukous" (Evening Prayer) and "Rauha" (Peace). Writing around the turn of the 20th century, Leino's poetry draws on Finnish dialects and is rather conventionally Romantic. This is the first time that Saariaho has set Finnish-language verse, though the treatment she gives it is identical to her many French vocal works of the past decade and more.
It's hard to review this disc. If you've never heard Saariaho's music before, then you'll probably love the sensuous writing, the lush orchestration and the sense of mystery. On the other hand, anyone who has followed Saariaho's music to date has heard everything here before, with the exception of Kriikku's clarinet and the strong dramatic arc of "Laterna Magica". The concerto and the song cycle are reusing gestures virtually identical to the composer's works of the late 1990s.
The work was written in consultation with clarinetist Kari Krikku, and really pushes the limits of the instrument. Krikku plays in the extreme high and low ranges of the clarinet, and even uses multiphonics in a sections. But it's not just to show off his extraordinary skill -- there's an artistic reason behind it all.
The concerto is a journey through the senses, as depicted in a series of medieval tapestries. with a movement each devoted to hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste, and finally, the "sixth sense" titled "to my only desire." That final movement pulls the disparate parts of the work together in a transfiguring fashion that (as you can tell) is very difficult to describe.
Also included in this album is the short work Laterna Magica. It draws inspiration from the early form of slide projector, called the magic lantern. Vague clouds of sound emulate soft-focus images cast on walls, moving, combining -- and sometimes interacting in a work that's both ethereal and deeply moving.
Leino Songs is a set of orchestral songs, based on the writings of Eino Leino, one of Finland's greatest poets. Saariaho looks to the inherent drama of the text to shape the musical structure, as instruments clash and withdraw. Tying the composition together is the soprano voice. Solosit Anu Komsi worked with Saariaho on this composition, so the music lays very well for her.
Saariaho doesn't write pretty music - but she does write vital music. You might not be able to whistle the themes, but the raw emotion Saariaho lays down on manuscript paper is powerful indeed. This is the music of contemplation and thought, and reaps additional insights with repeated listening.
The first piece on the CD is a Clarinet Concerto (2010) played by Kari Krikki and is easily my favorite work. This is mostly because the writing and playing of the clarinet is phenomenal and also provide a strong foreground to the intricate background textures. The insane fingered glisses, really effective multiphonics, wild vibratos, the harshest of flutter tonguing and immense octave transpositions really bring this piece alive with an almost barbaric quality of yelping, growling and walling animals. Whoever thought extended technique was aesthetically dead has to hear this piece. The music itself is full of space and this attribute is probably Saariaho's greatest gift. All her sonic inventions have lots of time to breath and there is enough space to hear the dovetailing of other textures behind. The harmonic language is primitive quasi-tonality, organized around a few tonicizing pitches which the clarinet reinforces. Often it seems like the orchestra itself is spewing out of the clarinet mimicing its' wild, ecstatic gestures. Finally the player, Mr. Krikki deserves the Finnish medal of honor for his fingered glisses alone. They are perfection, along with the most crazy-ass, accurate and expressive playing I've ever heard on the clarinet. A real genius
The second piece is `Laterna Magica (2008) and is played by the Finnish Radio Orchestra. This was my least favorite in that there were too many post-serialist
clichés poking through the otherwise gorgeous textures. There were lots of long, complex sus chords that eventually gliss or single pitch, sustain, arpeggiated stabs that sounded a lot like a B-movie suspense soundtrack. The piece gradually introduces more recognizable, less abstracted passages with pulse or march undercurrents--not unlike Mahler or Schittke. These clearer passages gradually became longer, some of them beautifully integrated with the abstract writing (a la Debussy).
The final piece is the charming `Leino Songs' (2007) sung by Anu Komsi with orchestra. The melodic writing returned to the tonal writing of the first piece --circling around certain pieces--this time being a combination of the Japanese and Hungarian (Bartok) scale with delicate ornate melisma into each central pitch. A lot of it is really beautiful and Ms. Komsi does a fabulous job.
Although there are moments of this CD that feel like `I've been to this modernist trough one too many times', over-all, a lot of it is stunningly orchestrated and performed. All mainstream, `new music' buffs -Alert! Alert! --This is highly, highly recommended.