Saariaho Notes On Light; Orion; Mirage
Light is the element that allies Kaija Saariaho to so many of her Nordic peers; that, plus related things such as fire, sky, eclipse and mirage, all of which feature as titles or subtitles in the three pieces recorded here. Musical textures that shimmer, scintillate, explode, darken and extinguish are her bridge between modernism and tradition, and potentially also the listener’s path from familiar modes of listening into her fascinating, never vulgarly gratifying, realm of sonic imagination.
These performances from the “100% Finland” festival in Paris are just about ideal as introductions to Saariaho, and self-recommendable for anyone already initiated. Two out of three are world premieres, and it will surely not be long before other soloists take up the crusade begun so valiantly by Anssi Karttunen and Karita Mattila. The two combine to magical effect in Mirage, where they jointly interpret the transformations of the woman in Mexican shaman-healer María Sabina’s ecstatic text (set in English). By comparison I have to confess that Notes on Light feels just a fraction long for its material; whereas Orion – inspired by the mortal and cosmic aspects of the mythological hunter – deserves to figure on any short list for orchestral masterpiece of the new millennium.
Kaleidoscopic orchestral colour, remote from human gesture and drama but rich in intellectual imagination, is a dimension in which Christoph Eschenbach excels, and demonstration recording quality of the kind Ondine supplies is the other notable ingredient in this compelling programme.