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Kaija Saariaho: Du Cristal...À la Fumée; Sept Papillons, Nymphéa
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Kaija Saariaho (*1952) gehört heute zu den bekanntesten zeitgebnössischen Komponistinnen. Ihre Werke haben internationale Anerkennung und Bewunderung erlangt. Für Ihre erste CD bei Ondine konnten 1993 schon so bekannte Kräfte wie Esa Pekka Salonen mit dem Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra oder das Kronos Quartett gewonnen werden. Anlässlich der Wiederveröffentlichung dieser CD füllt das finnische Label den Platz nun mit Sept Papillons (2000), einem Stück für Violoncello solo.
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"Du cristal" (1990) and "...a la fumee" (1991) for orchestra were Saariaho's first creation for large ensemble and, as their titles suggest, are closely related. In the first piece, the orchestra works mainly in unison in creating crescendos and diminuendos of great proportions, while percussion bubbles on the surface. The last sound of "Du cristal" is a cello trill played sul ponticello, which becomes the first sound of "...a la fumee". In this second work, the addition of two soloists--flute and cello--and live electronics disrupts the uniformity of sound, resulting in the "smoke" of the title. While the first piece is especially reminiscent of Ligeti's "Atmospheres", the richness of harmony can be closely compared to the style Magnus Lindberg was discovering around the same time, but less kinetic and slower-moving.
"Nymphea" for string quartet and electronics (1987) was written for the Kronos Quartet and is an example of early Saariaho. While the quartet performs, electronics are used to broaden the sounds mere moral instrumentalists are capable of, and contrasts, as the composer explains, "limpid, delicate textures with violent, shattering masses of sound." This is by far the most avant-garde piece on the disc, but I find I get more and more out of it as I learn about the use of electronics in contemporary music. "Sept Papillions" for solo cello (2000) was the first piece Saariaho wrote after her opera "L'amour de loin" and a new arrival on what is otherwise a reissue disc. These miniatures are of varying interest, but at their height are lovely. The second and sixth are heartbreakingly beautiful.
This CD was the first exposure I had to Saariaho's work, and it was so pleasantly shocking that I immediately went out and bought everything else available.
(Verified purchase from a local record shop.)
The last piece, "Nymphea," is a string quartet with electronics, commissioned by and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Compared with the version recorded a couple of years later by the Arditti Quartet (on From Scandinavia: Music of Lindberg, Saariaho & Tiensuu -- see my review), this is a brash, "rock" reading. I prefer the more subtle Arditti interpretation, but that might be because I heard it first.
This is superb modern music, part of the uncompromising vision of the post-war avant-garde, combining Saariaho's Finnish roots with the French stream she has joined since relocating to Paris in the early Eighties. She studied with Grisey, and her music has clear affinities with Tristan Murail as well, the other main spectralist composer.
This is a reissue of a 1993 Ondine disc (see my review) -- the only addition is the fine cello solo piece "Sept Papillons" (8'), played by Anssi Karttunen.
'Du Cristal...À la Fumée' are separate works in time but play so beautifully together they seem to be a continuum. There are wondrous masses of sound created by closely spacing pitches within orchestral choirs, a technique that while not new, in Saariaho's talented hands seem to go beyond even the once avant-garde compositions of Ligeti and Messiaen and Lindberg and find a tonal range that for once treats sound clusters as progressive linear music. The results are overwhelmingly beautiful. In the hands of her close friend and fellow composer - Esa-Pekka Salonen - and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the complex works feel genuinely transparent.
Included on this CD is a work written for the Kronos Quartet - 'Nymphéa' - which as a work for strings alone could easily be transposed to full orchestra, but instead Saariaho has created an intimate work for quartet and electronic enhancement. The marriage between traditional instruments and the augmentation by electronic means is seamless and lifts the work to new heights of creativity. The final work here is a piece for solo cello - 'Sept Papillions' - and virtually flutters about in keeping with its title. The fine soloist is another Saariaho fellow musician, Finnish cellist Anssi Kartunnen, and is able to move among these miniature works with great technical facility and great beauty. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 05