Kaija Saariaho: 11 Essential Works

Kaija Saariaho, the poetic and powerful composer who died on Friday at the age of 70, was also sensitive and thought-provoking in his words.

“A dazzling variety of surfaces, textures and textures,” she wrote of her early work, in words that could describe her style over four decades. “Weight, gravity. Blindness. Interpolation. Reflection. Death. The totality of independent worlds. Shading, color refraction.”

Her music trembles and shimmers, but it never lacks strength. Lush, often spooky and darkly enigmatic, her work evolves with the suppleness of snake muscles. Her music can evoke the brilliance and glare of the sun, its beauty, its harshness, its fiery afterimages, but it can also evoke the slow, dizzying sounds of the deep ocean. increase.

Saariaho’s interest was clear from almost the beginning of his career to its all too soon end. It’s about ushering electronic and acoustic instruments into a fresh alchemy of color, light and mass. A boiling stillness creation. The speed with which what seems solid crumbles into nothingness. Here are 11 of her works that showcase her fascinating and sometimes forbidden world.

Trained as a rigorous serialist, Saariaho was exposed to the sonic fog of spectralist composers like Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisé in the early 1980s. This, combined with her time at Ilkham, the French electronic music institute, brought her back from her early musical paths to exploring the relationship between acoustic instruments and electronic sound, sometimes recording to tape, sometimes recording Made live. In “Verblendungen” (a particularly complex word for “delusion”), the taped sound and the live ensemble come together on a journey that gradually dissolves from crushing density into loose, quivering particles. I will

Half of the linked pair pieces ( “… a la fume”) works for large orchestras – works in which she entered into composing for grand symphonic troupes – “Du Cristal” also has a significant part of synthesizers, but Saariaho mixes electronic and acoustic in a single change. are integrated into a dangerous mass to do. Situated between meditation and violence, solo instruments emerge one after another from swirling clouds of sound.

A rare Saariaho work that contains no electronic components, ‘Graal Théâtre’ (‘Theatre of the Holy Grail’) is an unforgettable violin concerto of frenetic virtuosity. At first, a calligraphic solo line flutters among bells and soft drone sounds, then transitions. and out of focus. Near the end, the accompaniment explodes, leaving the violinist alone at the final moment.

Before his first opera, Saariaho tried his hand at voice scripting, including setting the text for “The Tempest”. It included Miranda pleading with her father, Prospero, to calm the storm he had created. The chamber instrumentation is intimate and graceful, the soprano lines expressively painful yet naive and lovely, a combination that has long fascinated the composer: the seemingly simple form of medieval and Renaissance song and the contemporary. It is a mixture of colors.

Saariaho’s music is sensual, but the chorus sounds in this 7-part, 22-minute production rise like bars of light and blur their edges like smoke. The atmosphere is like another world. The subject matter is travel, which feels more existential than physical. “Memory of Waves” has an electronic sound. His penultimate section theme, “death,” is followed by the hypnotic development of “Arrival.”

In her first opera, Saariaho collaborated with writer Amin Maalouf to create a stylized vision of the life of 12th-century minstrel Geoffre Rudel, who falls in love with a countess he has never met. Rich contemplation reigns. There is little story, but passion springs up in restraint, with a taste of medieval harmonies and North African rhythms.

Despite her skill with large ensembles, Saariaho’s solos (including this set of cello miniatures) have a special focus and freedom, on a human rather than mythological scale. . And like Bach’s cello music, here too the near-constant movement has the eerie and unexpected effect of encouraging introspection.

Few contemporary composers have devoted as much energy to composing the flute as Saariaho. She explored her keen eloquence, her pristine eloquence, and her human connection, the breath that sounds forever. This concerto is wandering, dreamy, flapping and, in the second part, dancing, its energy contagious.

Inspired by the hunters and the namesake constellation of Greek mythology, this magnificent use of a vast organ-equipped orchestra begins as a moody nocturne and then erupts into a fiery rage. The second part, “Winter Sky”, has the expansiveness of the title, and the infinite stars tremble. And the finale “Hunter” is a fierce dash.

Inspired by a series of medieval tapestries, Saariaho wrote a clarinet concerto that asked the soloist to move around the performance space. This concerto has a mysterious structure according to the five senses. Sight is annoyingly wailing. A simmering “smell”. “Touch” is alert and as bright as Saariaho’s music. The “taste” is restless and complains. The sixth section, whose title roughly translates to “Following My Desires,” is one of her most macabre and most beautiful works in her body of work, an otherworldly call-to-response. A quietly disorienting cave filled with

Written before the pandemic pushed its premiere to 2021, Innocence is as densely plotted as L’Amour de Loin was. A rough yet sensitive tale of an international school shooting and its aftermath years later, this score combines singing, speaking (in seven different languages) and eerie Finnish folk songs to create a hopeless tale. It is Saariaho’s masterpiece that confidently leads the atmosphere. All these different worlds of voice are united by the orchestra. The orchestra envelops the singers lightly and smoothly. Never explicitly underline or compete.

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