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La Variations (Upshaw, Karttunen, Los Angeles Po)

Dawn Upshaw, London Sinfonietta, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Los Angeles Philharmonic Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Audio CD (5 Nov 2001)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • ASIN: B00005NV1X
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 431,404 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Class All Rounder 28 July 2010
By Mr. A. R. Boyes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Esa-Pekka Salonen is a much celebrated conductor who initially only took up the profession to allow performance of his own works. His success prevented him from finding the time to compose however. A few years ago he took a sabbatical to allow him to reappraise the compositions he had completed and to move to a more accessible compositional style. It allowed him to produce a string of very colourful orchestral works. So he has emerged as both a significant composer as well as conductor

Having lived with the music of others in his conducting career, the influences are easy to spot such as Messiaen, Debussy, Stravinsky, John Adams and, as they always say with Finnish composers, Sibelius. Salonen admits to the Sibelius element but the Sibelius influence isn't so easy to pick out much of the time - I think he would have baulked at this music's opulence.

The LA Variations is a 20-minute work that he wrote for his own Orchestra which is more a set of variations on a harmony rather than a theme. It sways between atmospheric impressionism - early on there is an almost direct quote form the Sibelius Fourth Symphony (just one muted brass chord), quicker and rhtymically more dynamic music with more than a jazzy hint of the blues in places. Salonen, not surprisingly, is a master of orchestration even fooling the listener at one point that electronics have been added - well he fooled me!

The Five Images After Sappho, are sung by Dawn Upshaw. She sings wonderfully but her voice sounds a little too mature when the subject matter is the journey of a teenage girl from childhood to marriage and love. The songs are beautiful miniatures with the final wedding song being of most substance. The French influence and early Stravinsky are to the fore.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They have something going on 1 Jun 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Salonen, Lindberg and Saariaho is a triptych "gang" of clever, brilliant composers from my neighbor country Finland and if you like postmodern classical music you should check ALL three of them out (these three mentioned above often "sit in" or help each other in one way or another).
This is a stunning record and Salonens five songs (beutiful singing from D. Upshaw on those 5 songs) are something special.
This disc has almost everything. A criteria for... well maybe not a genuis but def. a very good, innovative composer.
Salonen is a good conductor and also an extremly talanted composer.
A must disc. This is something extraordanary in the postmodern classical music area.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible new music in an accessible yet progressive idiom 8 Jan 2008
By Ryan, Lord Butternut - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is a stunning disc. The highlight must surely be Mania-a cello concerto-like 17 minute piece with progressive rhythmic and orchestral values, while teetering on the brink of atonality, yet never sounding raucous, ugly, or exceedingly vulgar. This piece is one of the most exciting modern pieces I have heard in a while. Gambit and Giro are also a modern take on a stravinskyesqe, straussian tone poem. They are fun, exciting and brillinat all at once. The main piece is the LA variaitons which, though for me not as fun as the other three pieces is still well worth the listen. I did not, however, like the Five images of Sappho. Three of the five songs are good, but one of them is so obnoxiously redundent that it is ludicrous. Other than that, however, I enthusiastically recommend this and Wing on Wing(DG), along with the new piece Helix, released only on Itunes live concert series.
The quality of Salonen;s pieces so far make me very excited to follow the future of this young and talented composer. This is recommended for both lovers of both the old and new school of modern music. There are no, I repeat NO, bleep-bloop, strategic noise moments.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To be in the presence of a master......... 17 May 2002
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The first thing I did after returning home from the 5/16/02 performance of the LA Phil with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting his own FOREIGN BODIES was to put on his "LA Variations" disc, to reconfirm his growth as a composer. Hopefully FOREIGN BODIES will be recorded soon as it is a masterwork. But until it is we have this gem of a disc of Salonen's music to bask in. Salonen continues to surprise us in every way. A supremely gifted conductor, he has moved from the school of dissecting the works of the last centuries, finding nuances and clarity that makes them seem new. Now his acute sense of detail and attention to orchestral color has matured into finding the power of the soul, the non-cerebral passion that makes the masterworks continue to live. Few conduct Mahler, Debussy, Bruckner, Strauss and then Stravinsky/Bartok/Prokofiev/Sibelius/Nielson better.
The same journey applies to his own compositions. Yes, he explores the infinite spectrum of instrumental and vocal colors, but now he is showing us how he can work with massive clouds of sound and allow us to walk into that soundscape, seeing every atom without losing the emotional impact of the whole. LA VARIATIONS is well worth being in the repertoire of all the major orchestras. It is a big, luxurious, lush tonal poem. His FIVE IMAGES AFTER SAPPHO ( especially as sung by Dawn Upshaw) are text appropriate, voice friendly, and above all communicative - equal to any song cycle written in the last century.
The Wunderkind Salonen has matured into an insightful composer and conductor and his place in the music world and the future is secure. Just listen to this disc and see for yourself.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! 27 Oct 2001
By David Dennis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
What an album! I've seen Salonen conduct a few times, but this is the first time I've heard one of his own compositions. Amazingly different, combining modernism, minimalism, and melody all at the same time. He's also wonderful at using unique sounds. During LA Variations, there were a few times where I wasn't sure what instrument was playing. And during the Sappho piece, Salonen feels free to use drums that sound almost like bongos. I just can't wait for his next composition...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the future of classical music 3 Mar 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I have always viewed Esa-Pekka Salonen as a Yuppie, and I hate Yupppies! Having said that, Jesus, there are some Yuppies that can really DO things....
This CD is wonderful, it is a most welcome and pleasant suprise in the land of modern (contemporary) classical music.
First, the relation to Sibelius is quite obvious, but Salonen doesn't stop there. I hear a little Debussy, a little Mahler, and sometimes even a bit Messiaen. But most of all, it's all SALONEN.
The colors, the timbres; high mastery of orchestration. Ingenius. Salonen extracts sounds and vibrations from the orchestras, especially "his" LA Phil, like I have never heard before. Buy this CD for the colors of the sounds alone, and you won't be disappointed.
LA Variations is my favorite piece: Modernism that is relaxed, but never boring, with scenes of power and pure excitement that are never nerving and unlistenable. This CD wants to entertain, and it does so at the highest level of accomplishment and cultivation.
Mania is fantastic for its lyrical approach,while maintaing the surrealism of an early Rachmaninov or a Scriabin, with Karttunen as a master of his trade.
Salonen has changed, the "young bravado" like another reviewer once called him, has matured, without losing his compassion, excitement and the thrill, but by adding warmth, melody and color and feeling.
There are many things here that are new to my ears, and maybe one day we will say that the future of classical music has finally arrived...
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