Kaija Saariaho: Chamber Works for Strings, Vol. 1 & 2 / META4 ensemble; Anna Laakso, piano; Marko Myohanen, electronics

> Tocar - Tocar
> Vent nocturne - I. Sombres miroirs
> Vent nocturne - II. Soupirs de l'obscur
> Calices - I. —
> Calices - II. —
> Calices - III. —
> Spins and Spells - Spins and Spells
> Nocturne - Nocturne
> Nymphea, "Jardin secret III" - Nymphea, "Jardin secret III"

Album Summary

>Saariaho, Kaija : Tocar, for violin & piano
>Saariaho, Kaija : Vent Nocturne, for viola & electronics
>Saariaho, Kaija : Calices, for violin & piano
>Saariaho, Kaija : Spins and Spells, for solo cello
>Saariaho, Kaija : Nocturne, for solo violin
>Saariaho, Kaija : Nymphea (Jardin secret III), for string quartet & electronics
Performers Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Featuring world premier recordings - Kaija Saariaho is renowned across the world for her vivid orchestration. Her chamber works highlight her ability to create unique sound worlds with only a few instruments. Here she also adds live electronics to create a unique color. Saariaho advanced her profile in North America with her recent stint as composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall. Meta4, formed in 2001, is one of the most internationally successful Finnish string quartets. In 2012 they were awarded both the Record of the Year by the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE and the Emma prize (the Finnish Grammy) for Classical Album of the Year. This release is in tribute to Saariaho who turned 60 in 2012.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-).



Reviews

A different side of the Finnish master
Kajia Saariaho has been known for over thirty years and on the "world stage" as one of the great contemporary composers. She is also one of the many astonishing voices to have emerged from Finland. Her music is renowned for its picturesque harmonic vocabulary, its breadth of expression and an open, vista-like sensualism that conjures up everything from dreams to vast, Scandinavian landscapes. In fact, all of her best known works are big, orchestral works including dramatic operatic and choral contributions, including her landmark opera, "L'amour de loin" This new collection by the members of cutting edge string quartet Meta4 offers up another to Saariaho's output and is no less fascinating than her larger works. "Tocar" (to touch/play) for violin and piano sets the stage with its somewhat improvisatory techniques and the two instruments coming together in gestures from beginning to end. The similarly conceived "Calices" for violin and piano is a three movement work that very nearly approximates a traditional sonata and uses material from Saariaho's earlier violin concerto "Graal Theatre." The fascinating "Vent" for viola and electronics is based on the composer's impressions of the poetry of Georg Trakli found in a printing that had German and French printed side by side. The two movements treat the instruments in a mirror fashion and then in a "sighing" ("Soupirs") fashion. There are elements resembling wind and breathing that bind both the viola part and the adjoining electronics. I found this work and the impressive, and vast, "Nymphea" for string quartet and electronics to be the most compelling works in this program. "Nymphea" was a commission for the exemplary Kronos Quartet and the title refers to the water lily paintings of Claude Monet and the blurry haze of color that fills his works. Microtones and blurred intonation mark the string writing in this quite modern take on Impressionist concepts. This is an amazing work! Even the two works for solo strings, "Nocturne" for solo violin and "Spins and Spells" for solo cello, hold quite a lot of fascination for the listener. "Spins and Spells" was written as a competition piece uses non-traditional tuning on the lowest string (from C to Bb) and the third (from D to C#) to create exotic new timbres and harmonics. "Nocturne" was written specifically as her contribution to a series of works on the event of the death of renowned Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski. I still greatly admire all the music of Kajia Saariaho. She is truly one of my favorite composers and this disc renews my opinion. I think the unacquainted would find this music a revelation but especially "Nymphea" I still prefer her large, sumptiously orchestrated vocal and symphonic works but I count "Nymphea' among my favorites and I recommend this highly to Saariaho afficionados as well as to the novice.
Submitted on 08/26/13 by Dan Coombs 
A Good Start
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is a master of soundscapes. Her orchestral works weave tapestries of sound that are both earthy and other-worldly. And as this new collection shows, her nuanced approach to music is equally effective with the limited forces of chamber groups.

Although the string quartet META4 are the featured artists, they only perform together on one track -- Nympha. The rest of the selections are for a single string instrument with varying types of accompaniment: Tocar, and Calices for violin and piano; Vent nocturne for viola and electronics; Spins and Spells for cello solo, and Nocturne for violin solo.

Nympha is composed for string quartet plus electronics. And Saariaho applies said electronics with a very light touch. She uses them to enhance the sound of the acoustic instruments, almost like super-saturating the colors of a photograph. The electronics heighten the emotional intensity of the string quartet in this pensive work.

My personal favorite is Spins and Spells for solo cello. There's an off-kilter quality to the music that keeps it moving forward in fits and starts. The work feels perpetually off-balance and tumbling forward right up to the end.

If you're already a fan of Saariaho's music, this disc is a must. If not, this can provide a good and somewhat intimate introduction to this visionary composer's style.
Submitted on 10/09/13 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Saariaho, Kaija : Tocar, for violin & piano
  • Performers: Minna Pensola (Violin); Anna Laakso (Piano)
  • Ensemble: META4
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 7 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2010

>Saariaho, Kaija : Vent Nocturne, for viola & electronics
  • Performers: Atte Kilpelainen (Viola); Marko Myohanen (Electronics)
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 14 min. 33 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2006

>Saariaho, Kaija : Calices, for violin & piano
  • Performers: Antti Tikkanen (Violin); Anna Laakso (Piano)
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 57 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2009

>Saariaho, Kaija : Spins and Spells, for solo cello
  • Performer: Tomas Djupsjöbacka (Cello)
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 58 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1996

>Saariaho, Kaija : Nocturne, for solo violin
  • Performer: Minna Pensola (Violin)
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 5 min. 19 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1994

>Saariaho, Kaija : Nymphea (Jardin secret III), for string quartet & electronics
  • Performer: Marko Myohanen (Electronics)
  • Notes: Sellosali, Espoo (2012-10-05_2012-10-06&2012-)
  • Running Time: 21 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 1987