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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine disc of Finnish music, 26 Feb 2013
This review is from: Saariaho: D'Om Le Vrai Sens/ Laterna Magica/ Leino Songs (Audio CD)
I do not have that much of Saariaho's music, I must admit to finding it a little difficult to crack, although when I persevere I am always rewarded! This disc is slightly different in that it required a lot less work on my part to enjoy this music, indeed it was almost instantaneous enjoyment! Especially in the Clarinet Concerto with its searing high notes almost sounding like a Japanese bamboo flute rather than a clarinet at times. The work is a joint commission by the BBC, so let us hope that the BBC Phil perform it in Manchester, as, as with most of Saariaho's music, I think you really have to hear it performed live to truly appreciate it!
Saariaho is almost like the queen of Finnish music to Rautavaara's king, and this position is further strengthened with her large scale orchestral tour de force, Laterna Magica, which is very nearly a 24 minute single span concerto for orchestra, with all sections of the orchestra seemingly getting to show their skills, and boy, do they need to be skilled!
The disc concludes with the more ethereal Leino Songs, a series of four texts by Eino Leino, who is regarded as probably the most important of all Finnish poets. They were composed especially with the voice of the present singer, the soprano Anu Komsi, in mind, giving us the performance as intended by the composer.
Throughout the performances are first rate, both the soloists and the orchestra are at the top of their form, expertly marshalled by Sakari Oramo, who worked closely with the composer when preparing the performances. The recorded sound and balance is excellent as are the booklet notes making this disc highly recommendable. This year sees Saariaho's sixtieth birthday, so why not take this opportunity to explore her music!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous modern music, 28 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Saariaho: D'Om Le Vrai Sens/ Laterna Magica/ Leino Songs (Audio CD)
The Saariaho album is magnificent. The Clarinet Concerto breaks such new ground and demands much technique from the clarinettist. He certainly delivers in this recording. The tonal repertoire is at once engaging and attractive. Then comes 'Magica Laterna', a very mysterious work full of magic as the title suggests and showing off the timbre of the instrumental spectrum. The Leino Songs are so exquisite in their elegant modernism; like a nightingale in a gilded cage set against a backdrop of coruscating jewels the soprano excels herself. All in all this album by Saariaho is a must for your collection.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, 14 Aug 2012
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Mr. A. R. Boyes "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Saariaho: D'Om Le Vrai Sens/ Laterna Magica/ Leino Songs (Audio CD)
I don't want to add too much to the excellent reviews on Amazon.com, as listed below. A year or two back I wrote a review of Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto saying that a new great concerto had arrived. Well here is another one: again from Finland and from that other major contemporary composer, Kaija Saariaho.

The two couldn't be much different even if both are influenced by a fusion of contemporary styles and conventions. Lindberg's used a more obviously tonal language, using a folk like theme as the main reference point, making it the more approachable and with the scope for traditional concertante rhetoric. What is surprising is that Saariaho is able to provide a genuinely bravura role for the soloist even within the confines of her own musical language that emphasises the senses and subtleties of colour. Indeed the work attempts to depict all the senses in their various guises: hence the variety of technical challenges for the soloist. Kari Kriikku puts in a remarkable performance on the clarinet, often being pushed to the extremes of the instrument's register.

Saariaho's orchestration is as diaphanous as ever: full of the same throbbing mass of colour and microtones as her other recent orchestral works. Whilst there is much to tax the soloist the concerto still feels like a sensuous tone poem. There is a musical synthesis at work in all of these pieces, but if you start with an update of Debussy's "Pelleas und Melisande" you'll never have to travel far. Saariaho may be a Finn but this music sound distinctly French: that's certainly not a criticism. She may be considered a modernist but her obvious debt to debussy is almost post modern and the diaphonous glow of her orchestration reminds me of the Valentin Silvestrov: compare Oltra Mar with his Requiem and you'll ehar what I mean.

"Magic Lantern" is similarly orchestrated though clear thematic material is slow to emerge. The whispered incantations along the way perhaps echo some of Stockhausen's vocal practices but they also seem to imitate the machinations of the magic lantern itself as images gradually become clearer throughout the piece. I was impressed by the piece when performed at this year's Proms but it is a slighter work than the concerto.

The stocking filler is the "Leino Songs", which were written for Anu Komsi with her help and it shows in a very satisfying cycle where she seems completely at home performing them here. As ever on Ondine, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra is in top form helped by excellent recorded sound. I was impressed in particular as to how the soloist is placed and moved during the concerto to maximum effect. Sakari Oramo conducts what I can only assume will be the definitive recordings.
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