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Kaija Saariaho: La Passion de Simone / Dawn Upshaw, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Album Summary

>Saariaho, Kaija : Le Passione de Simone, oratorio for soprano, chorus, orchestra & electronics
Performer Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone, an oratorio about the life and thoughts of Simone Weil for soprano solo, choir, orchestra and electronics, is now being released for the first time on CD (SACD). La Passion de is not only the most important work by Kaija Saariaho (even she herself said so), but recording features top performers including soprano Dawn Upshaw and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Tapiola Chamber Choir.

BBC Music Magazine, July 2013
Upshaw's always seems the perfect voice and sensibility for Saariaho's music; and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Saariaho's colleague from their student days, is an intensely engaged and sympathetic director of his forces and of the score.

Gramophone Magazine, July 2013
A guiding idea for the work is the polarity of light and gravity...Upshaw does as much with the demanding vocal lines as anyone could expect of her, and Salonen and his forces keep everything in sharp focus.

International Record Review, June 2013
That the soprano part is tailor-made for Upshaw ensures a smooth elegance in the middle register...The Tapiola Chamber Choir is in command of the diaphanous and often Messiaenic choral writing, with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra no less responsive under the guidance of Esa-Pekka Salonen. As a present for Saariaho's 60th birthday, this could hardly have been improved upon.

The Guardian, 9th May 2013
The playing is formidable.

Notes & Reviews:

Personnel: Gabrielle Lamb (dancer).

Recording information: Helsinki Music Centre, Finland (10/19/2012-10/20/2012).


A most unusual passion worth hearing
I actually saw the US premiere of Kajia Saariaho's "La Passion de Simone" in LA in 2008 with Esa-Pekka Salonen and Dawn Upshaw. I was quite taken then and am again with this CD premiere of this unusual but ethereal work. Saariaho's music, which I love, is always beset with lush and exotic harmonies and a very other-worldly use of orchestration. The story behind this tense but rewarding masterpiece is that of Simone Weil. Simone was born into a French-Jewish family but she, herself, defied conventional religious views. Her commitment to social justice led her to embrace Marxism and pacifism, while also denouncing Stalinís atrocities, and she volunteered in the Spanish Civil War. She achieved a sort of mysticism and eventually embraced Christianity, denounced Hitler and yet wrote many essays on social injustices and what she perceived as religious hypocrisy. Simone became overwhelmed by feelings of powerlessness during the height of the war and frustrated in her attempts to rejoin the French resistance. Ultimately, she allowed herself to starve to death as an act of solidarity with the victims of Hitlerís regime. This grim but transformative reality places Weil in some ways as a "modern" Jean d'Arc and Saariaho's work is written in fifteen "stations" - the analogies to Christ being obvious and which take us through her self-doubt, pessimism, mysticism, self-awareness and - finally - death. There is an off-stage narrator "reader" here who uses extracts from Simone's actual writings among the musings of the soprano whose words serve as an observer to the stages of Weil's life. The chorus, used sparingly, actually, serves in both ways. The effect of the piece is a bit of a blend between the spiritual and the surreal. It is nearly transcendental in places; disturbing in others. Saariaho's score is fascinating and captivating and the forces of the Finnish Radio Symphony and the Tapiola Chamber Choir complement the always amazing Dawn Upshaw under the leadership of Esa-Pekka Salonen, who knows Saariaho's work like few other conductors. If this is one's first exposure to Kajia Saariaho's music, it may prove a little complex, abstract but - nonetheless - beautiful. The SACD recording is spacious and well engineered. If you already a Saariaho fan, this work is an important addition. Highly recommended!
Submitted on 04/29/13 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Saariaho, Kaija : Le Passione de Simone, oratorio for soprano, chorus, orchestra & electronics
  • Performer: Dawn Upshaw
  • Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Ensemble: Tapiola Chamber Choir
  • Notes: Helsinki Music Centre, Finland (10/19/2012-10/20/2012)
  • Running Time: 3 min. 19 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006