KAIJA SAARIAHO (b.1952): True Fire for Baritone and Orchestra, Trans for Harp and Orchestra, Ciel d’hiver.
Catalogue Number: 06U068
Reference: ODE 1309-2
Description: In relation to her stage works, (04O076, 02Q068) we have previously observed that "In somewhat of a contrast with the abstract, intangible luminosity of her instrumental compositions, especially those with electronics, the introduction of the human voice in Saariaho's dramatic works mines a deep vein of Romantic feeling, intense, dark and passionate." To which might be added; also a greater affinity with tonality. This is certainly true especially of the song cycle here, setting diverse texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Seamus Heaney, the Tewa Native American people of New Mexico and Mahmoud Darwish, creating a kind of narrative about humankind’s relationship with the world that follows a rather bleak trajectory until relieved by the final vibrant Emerson fragment and its pulsating, flickering accompaniment. Darwish's "Farewell", the emotional nadir of the piece in particular is treated to music of quasi-operatic richness and potency. The composer’s usual exquisite sense of color in the orchestration is present throughout, as it is in the other works here; Ciel d'hiver, adapted from Saariaho’s orchestral triptych Orion, is closer to the organic nature-scapes of her light-infused instrumental compositions. Beginning with a serene but alien and chilling night sky, the music takes an ominous turn in the central section of the piece - perhaps recalling the events that led to the hunter becoming a celestial phenomenon in the first place - before ending in the frozen patterns of the scintillant stars. The Harp Concerto also avoids the restless search for new, evanescent, insubstantial timbres, resembling to a startling degree a traditional concertante interchange between soloist and orchestra - except one with exceptionally translucent orchestration and a co-operative relationship between soloist and ensemble in which instruments frequently act as sustaining resonators for the harp, producing magical hybrid timbres. All three movements feature a cadenza, exploring the characteristic timbres and gestures unique to the harp. The middle movement 'vanitas' refers to the 'vanity' tradition of still life painting, presenting its 'objects' in a shadowy succession of changing illumination. The finale is a propulsive essay in rhythmic pulsation, buoyantly speeding the work to its conclusion. Texts included. Gerald Finley (bass-baritone), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; Hannu Lintu.