Notes and Editorial Reviews
Several of Kaija Saariaho’s works are named after natural phenomena that serve as a starting point to her compositional process. Composed in 1998, Neiges was inspired by various qualities of snow and explores instrumental languages and colors similar to those found in her earlier works. On the present album the piece is heard in its never-before recorded version for twelve cellos, performed by the cellists of the Oslo Philharmonic. Another source of inspiration has been medieval literature, which formed a point of departure for Graal Théâtre, the first concerto Saariaho wrote, as well as for the recent Vers toi qui es si loin (2018). Recorded for the first time here, the piece is a transcription, made for the violinist Peter Herresthal, of an aria from the opera L’Amour de loin. These two works for violin and orchestra bookend this amply filled disc, and frame Circle Map, a work in six movements for large orchestra. Permeating the work are six short poems by the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi, providing inspiration through their essence and vivid imagery, but also part of the musical material by way of a recording of them recited in Persian. This recording forms the raw material for the electronics included in the work, but also for much of the writing for the orchestra, for instance in terms of pitches and intonations. All four works are conducted by Clément Mao Takacs, who has collaborated extensively with Kaija Saariaho and conducted her music across Europe and in the U.S.A.
Performances could scarcely be bettered. Peter Herresthal finds greater expressive variety in Graal Théâtre than Gidon Kremer (the only other account with full orchestra), with Clément Mao-Takacs making more of those emotional contrasts in Circle Map than Susanna Mälkki. The Oslo Philharmonic evince all the clarity and fastidiousness this music requires, heard to advantage in an opulent yet well-defined acoustic. Disc and booklet are presented in BIS’s current Ekopak format, which looks as stylish as the music contained within is compelling.