ESA-PEKKA SALONEN (b.1958): YTA III, knock, breathe, shine, Sarabande per un coyote, KAIJA SAARIAHO (b.1952): Dreaming Chaconne, Petals, 7 papillons, Spins and Spells.

Catalogue Number: 04U068

Label: Ondine

Reference: ODE 1284-2

Format: CD

Price: $16.98

Description: As a demonstration of the technical and expressive capabilities of the cello, you probably can’t do much better than this stimulating disc of works by two of the outstanding composers of the generation of Finnish modernists now at the pinnacle of worldwide recognition. Although their aesthetic aims, to say nothing of the extreme virtuosity they require of their performers, are not dissimilar, the music could not sound more different or identifiably personal. Salonen's works are more solid, concrete; their extravagant virtuosity has more to do with stretching the technical boundaries of the instrument than with discovering new extended timbres. In fact Yta (Surface) is a kind of rebuttal to the post-serial hyper-complexicists, with a different staff for each string of an instrument and twenty-four simultaneous types of expression from one instrumentalist. The piece is formidably difficult, but as the composer says: "practical man that I am ... I wanted the form ... to be constantly audible, in other words on the surface, and no hidden structure. Everything is transparent, and the listener has no difficulties following the process because there is only one musical plane”. The first movement of Knock, Breathe, Shine is likewise an exercise in blistering virtuosity, but the beautiful, plaintively pleading melody of the second movement reveals the work’s deeper inspiration. The title is taken from one of the Holy Sonnets of John Donne, a plea for the supplicant to be subsumed into the godhead, and Salonen went on to re-use this prayerful music as the basis of a setting of the Dona nobis pacem. When extroverted music returns in the final section, it is with a sense of striving toward a spiritual goal. The titles of Saariaho's pieces - Petals, butterflies - suggest the character of the music; subtly shaded in iridescent colors, the works abound in movement, a deceptively apparent fragility and evanescence. The composer’s sense of timbre and innovation in the use of extended techniques (including extensive scordatura tuning in Spins and Spells) is, as always, second to none, with fluttering tremolandi in harmonics and subtle whispering tones a standard part of her vocabulary. The composers' contributions to the 31-composer Mystery Variations project on the Chiacona by Giuseppe Colombi (1635-94) are included along with the original piece (you can hear the whole set here - 02O083). Wilhelmina Smith (cello).

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