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Kaija Saariaho: D'Om le Vrai Sens; Laterna Magica; Leino Songs / Kriikku, Komsi

Album Summary

>Saariaho, Kaija : D'om le vrai sens, clarinet concerto
>Saariaho, Kaija : Laterna Magica, for orchestra
>Saariaho, Kaija : Leino Songs, for voice & orchestra
Performers Conductor Ensembles Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This much awaited premiere features recordings of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's first clarinet concerto D'OM LE VRAI SENS. Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) is an international leading composer of today, also serving as the 2011 - 12 Composer-in-Residence at New York's Carnegie Hall. Featuring star clarinetist Kari Kriikku ("a physically flamboyant player of Olympian virtuosity" - The New York Times)

All these are exceptional performances... If you've not heard Saariaho before, this is an excellent introduction.

The WholeNote
Saariaho's dramatic orchestral piece Laterna Magica... underscores the composer's fascination with boundaries: between observation and imagination; between objective light and subjective dream-like reality. The latter is represented in sound by shifting, colourfully orchestrated, alternating dense and wispy chords and evanescent hissing instrumental sounds. Whispered words uttered by the musicians... adding to the music's mystery.

American Record Guide
Komsi boasts a beautiful and resonant voice that cuts through the orchestra but is not overpowering, and she phrases with a variety of shades and hues. Kriikku is an exceptionally skilled player, handling all the extended techniques with ease and scaling the composer's wicked technical passages with sizzling fingers and articulation.

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra partner Kriikku admirably in this enchanting concerto and under Oramo's sensitive direction provide beguiling accompaniments ... These delicate settings of Eino Leino's 'Looking at you', 'The Heart', 'Peace' and 'Evening Prayer' (to give their English titles) make a beautifully refined set, mutually supportive one for the others ... Komsi, for whom they were written, proves an exemplary executant.

Kaija Saariaho... proves on a new Ondine CD to have a distinctive voice and considerable skill in both instrumental and vocal composition. Kari Kriikku is fully equal to the work's many challenges... The four songs ("Looking at You," "The Heart," "Evening Prayer" and "Peace") were written for Anu Komsi, who performs them with elegance and grace.

San Francisco Classical Voice
This collection of three compositions written in the last five years finds Saariaho, the master orchestrator, concentrating on new ways to create deeply unsettling atmospheres without being blatant about it.

La Scena Musicale
The sense of aptness... is compelling. The sound, too, is impressive.

MusicWeb International
This is a superbly produced recording from the Ondine label, which has been championing Saariaho's music for some time now. ... this varied and deeply fascinating programme is as good a place as any to become acquainted with her remarkable universe of expressive sonority and mystical depth.

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho continues to produce music with a sonic sensuality that's never less than gripping. She is a masterful orchestrator and her work vibrates with fascinating colors and textures that demand attention. Her pieces tend to have a tone of evanescent mystery, and that's the prevailing mood of the three orchestral works that are given their premiere recording on this 2011 Ondine release. They are loosely programmatic in that their titles make specific artistic or literary allusions that give listeners a frame of reference for understanding her intentions. Saariaho's music uses a full range of contemporary techniques (with a special affinity for French spectralism), but its focused expressiveness gives it a powerfully direct emotional impact. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra plays with clarity and understanding under Sakari Oramo. Ondine's sound is clean, detailed, and present.


Saariaho /Ondine
This CD is just called ‘Saariaho’ which goes to show the kind of rock-star status she has in the ‘new music’ world. There are a lot of reasons for this but first the musical ones; she is an amazing orchestrator, her scores being a cornucopia of simultaneous delicate and complex textures. She is intensely musical, creating very convincing musical gestures in a style where often there is not a lot of strong musical direction. The other reason for her success is historical/political, in that she is the perfect amalgamation of two quasi warring camps –the serial/post serialists occupied by Boulez, Stockhausen, and universities worldwide on one side and the other side consisting of eastern Europe texturalists- Xenakis, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Pendereski and the spectral composers. There’s a 3rd link I hear, especially in the first piece on this CD –I sometimes feel the pandiatonation of serialist pitch organization making it sound like Xenakis or Ligeti orchestrated Part or Gorecki. Given her musical achievement of synthesizing all these warring camps, she is now the poster child of the aging, modernists ethos —A composer who offends no one and makes her supporters feel a little less dated and not so much at the end of a music cycle. Having said that, these reasons for her success should in no way distract from the prodigiousness of her talent or the assuredly of her musicality.

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.

Submitted on 10/11/11 by Mike Maguire 
Sensual music for serious listeners
This is an album of challenging music. But if you’re up to that challenge, you’ll find your listening experience deeply rewarding. Kaija Saariaho is concerned with the nature of sound, and the major work on this release, her clarinet concerto, shows it.

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.

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. Soloist Anu Komsi worked with Saariaho on this composition, so the music lays very well for her.
Submitted on 11/02/11 by RGraves321 
Another brilliant disc from Saariaho!
Finland has become the center of some of the most exciting new music being written these past several years. Among the biggest and most deservedly well known names is Kaija Saariaho, whose work never ceases to captivate and amaze me, and others. Hers is a style characterized by an ethereal, eclectic, picturesque style with an incredible command of orchestration and tone color and a harmonic vocabulary that is free flowing, built on emotion and never formalist. This new Ondine disc featuring Clarinet Concerto, "d'Om les Vrai Sens", the orchestral tone poem, "Lanterna Magica" and her "Leino Songs" for soprano and orchestra. Each of these works is brilliant and performed wonderfully by the forces of the Finnish Radio Symphony under the direction of Sakari Oramo. The Clarinet Concerto takes its subtitle from an inscription on a very early 16th century tapestry and translates as "The True Sense of Man (d'homme)" The tapestry itself is a prime example of late Medieval symbolism, in this case number sixth of six tapestries symbolizing the human senses - this one as the mysterious "sixth sense" of precognition. Featuring a lady and a unicorn, the imagery provides inspiration for Saariaho's work which utilizes the clarinet as the unicorn and the orchestration takes the clarinet/unicorn through a magical whirl wind exploring hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste and the final - a play on the title, "A mon seul desir (to my only desire)". Clarinetist Kari Kriikku is an amazing performer and must negotiate smears, bends, multiphonics and biphonics as well flutter tonguing. This is not a mere technical assault however is a captivating, amazing work whose sound leaves an emotional imprint ranging from sheer beauty to mystery to fright. The other works here are equally strong for different reasons. "Lanterna Magica" from 2008 takes its title the old fashioned revolving lantern projector that - when spun on a cylinder - served as the earliest version of animated film with still scenes painted on each of its six or eight sides (very similar in intent to the much more sophisticated photography of Edward Muybridge) Saariaho's atmospheric work also pays hommage to Ingmar Bergmann who has used this device in his films. The score makes much use of rapidly moving motives and shifting colors representative of light and dark. The closing work, her "Leino Songs" is a compact cycle for soprano based on four poems by Finnish poet Eino Leino. The music, just like the texts, is clear but bleak and beautiful but sad. Soprano Anu Komsi sings beautifully and with a sensitivity to the poet's mood and words. Each of these works makes a terrific introduction to the music of Saariaho for the uninitiated. I have admired her work for a long time and find this disc a welcome addition in a set of works that has never disappointed.
Submitted on 11/29/11 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Saariaho, Kaija : D'om le vrai sens, clarinet concerto
  • Performer: Kari Kriikku (Clarinet)
  • Conductor: Sakari Oramo
  • Ensemble: Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Notes: Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki (04/18/2011-04/20/2011)
  • Running Time: 30 min. 30 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Concerto
  • Written: 2010

>Saariaho, Kaija : Laterna Magica, for orchestra
  • Conductor: Sakari Oramo
  • Notes: Finlandia Hall, Helsinki (05/31/2010-06/01/2010)
  • Running Time: 23 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2008

>Saariaho, Kaija : Leino Songs, for voice & orchestra
  • Performer: Anu Komsi
  • Conductor: Sakari Oramo
  • Running Time: 12 min. 24 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Vocal
  • Written: 2007