Saariaho: Works / Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Kronos Quartet

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REVIEW:Alex Ross's enthusiastic review will have appeared by the time the reader sees this. Why a recent release of music by a still-young contemporary in...


Alex Ross's enthusiastic review will have appeared by the time the reader sees this. Why a recent release of music by a still-young contemporary in so prestigious a place? Because Kaija Saariaho is a composer of remarkable originality and quality three of whose works, and splendid examples they are, appear beautifully performed on a technically superb CD. Can recording serve a better cause? (One tries besides, and belatedly, to dilute the harm a since-departed reviewer inflicted. His snide remarks looked, from where I sat, like vandalism. My editor talked me into withdrawing a "Critics' Corner" objection. I should have held out.) Another reason for this CHOF follow-up looks through a side door to San Diego. I review in this issue an excellent CRI CD, entitled Sonor Ensemble. Rand Steiger's new-music group operates out of the University of California at San Diego, whose music department has grown in less than three decades to world prominence. For example, the British composer Brian Ferneyhough, whom I mention specifically because he was at one time Saariaho's mentor, has been teaching there since 1987. The plot thickens: the two orchestral pieces, Du cristal and ... à la fumée, the composer's first efforts on this scale, came about as a result of a year's stay at San Diego. Nymphéa too has a West Coast connection in that the San Francisco-based Kronos requested its creation.

Producer-engineer Joseph Magee brings us one of the better-sounding orchestral recordings I've lately heard. (The reader requires a good, wide-range sound system to fully savor its pleasures.) Saariaho's orchestral sonorities, reflecting her unique investigations into electronically generated sound, strike me as remarkably fine tone-paintings, all the more remarkable for their being the composer's first large-scale essays for other than computer-assisted ensemble. As to Nymphéa, the string quartet with electronics, the focal point is now IRCAM in Paris, which has long since proved a force in new directions in acoustic-electronic combinations and the computer's unstoppable, unpredictable role. None of this is to suggest, on the one hand, that Saariaho is destined to stand on the pantheon's highest pedestal—she may or may not—or, on the other, that one somehow hedges his bet in honoring a recording of a young modern's music in less than terms absolute ecstasy. Rather, I salute both an ideal application of recording's role and a powerful talent.

-- Mike Silverton, Fanfare

Product Description:

  • Release Date: December 11, 2008

  • UPC: 6413657780425

  • Catalog Number: ODE804

  • Label: Ondine

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century, Contemporary

  • Composer: Kaija Saariaho