Saariaho: Trios (Mirage/ Cloud Trio/ Cendres) (Steven Dunn/ Pia Freund/ Tuija Hakkila/ Mikael Helasvuo) (Ondine: ODE 1189-2)
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Ondine here presents a recording of chamber music by Kaija Saariaho. Known for her colourful orchestration, Saariahos impressive variety of sound is apparent in all of the works included here.
The trios are composed for different combinations of instruments, each of them demonstrating their individual colours.
Ondine has previously released the orchestral version of Mirage, and here presents the world première recording of the trio version. Musicians on this recording have performed Saariahos work for a number of years and display a striking affinity with her music.
The release also celebrates Kaija Saariahos 60th birthday (14th October 2012).
Top Customer Reviews
First up is Mirage, a very dramatic scene for a type of madwoman soprano character, with the cello performing a similar part and the sparkling piano providing the backbone to proceedings. There also exists a version where the piano is replaced by an orchestra, but I have a feeling this piece might work just as well as simply a piano plus voice composition.
Next is a traditional string trio (violin, viola, cello) in 4 movements which as a consequence has the most I suppose 'spectral' effects of all the works on this disc. After a slow questioning opening, the second movement's quick theme is passed around all the time between the instruments, whereas in the third they're all playing together and often reduced to a quiet whisper. The muted atmosphere nagging away in the final movement continues in Cendres, where the piano joins the cello and flute to slowly grope forwards as if lost in thought, although after a midway pause the pace picks up somewhat for a more suspenseful final five minutes.
The fourth trio in 5 movements is at some 20 minutes the longest and in my opinion strongest piece in this collection. For the most part it sounds like a straight-forward piano piece with added flourishes from the other two instruments, viola and cello.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The impetus for this change may be the composer's comparatively recent emphasis on opera. Indeed, the most agitated of the present works, Je Sens un Deuxieme Coeur, is based on and contemporaneous with the opera Adriana Mater.
Two of the pieces on the cd are versions of previously recorded material: Mirage, which substitutes a piano for the orchestra that backed the soprano and cello soloists; and Cendres, now a minute longer and scored for alto flute, cello & piano (The earlier version was for flute, viola & harp.) I confess to preferring the older recordings. But we have three fine, newly recorded works and, in my book, anything by Saariaho, one of today's premiere composers, is treasurable. Despite a few caveats, this is highly recommended.
"Cendres" for flute, cello and piano (1998) is a compressed version of her massive orchestral diptych "Du cristal ...à la fumée" (hear it on an earlier Ondine CD). It begins with the pianist quietly playing an E flat directly on the strings, which the cellist picks it up with an E-flat trill sul ponticello that is the common opening of several works in this family. There follows a musical drama that focuses on timbre and the dissection of a single chord, but combines its rich textures with a sense of violence. The flautist speaks several times through his instrument, while the cellist's line varies between pure tones and the noise from excessive pressure on the strings. It's good stuff. "Cendres" has been recorded before by Champ d'Action on a Mode disc, but both recordings are strong.
"Je sens un deuxieme coeur" for piano, viola and cello (2003) is based on music from Saariaho's second opera "Adriana Mater", being something of a suite in five movements. As I write this, that opera has not yet been commercially recorded, and unless you're willing to track down a radio recording, this piece is the only place to hear some of its music. On one hand, this is an example of the ditch that Saariaho has written herself into, her post-spectralist stylings now overly polished and pretty. On the other hand, there are a few brutal moments -- the opera is about a woman raped during wartime, and that sense of conflict comes through in the music at times. "Je sens un deuxième coueur" has been recorded before on a digital-only DG Live release, and more recently on a Harmonia Mundi disc, but I can't say I prefer any one recording over the others.
"Mirage" for soprano, cello and piano (2007) is a reduced arrangement of a work for those two soloists and full orchestra (hear it on an earlier Ondine release). The piece sets a poem by Mexican folk healer Maria Sabina about mushroom hallucinations. Who expected Saariaho to write psychedelia? The soprano is dramatic, with loud outbursts, while the cello line is subtle, silky and mysterious. Unfortunately, this arrangement lacks the colour and sense of flux of the orchestral version, which suited the text. Pia Freud's performance holds its own against Karita Mattila, the dedicatee of the orchestral version.
"Serenatas" for percussion, cello and piano (2008) consists of five movements that can be played in any order. Here the musicians chose Delicato - Agitato - Dolce - Languido - Misterioso. Saariaho's writing for cello is typically sinuous and the pitched percussion something unusual. It does feel that the piano is too distantly miked, though.
The "Cloud Trio" for violin, viola and cello (2009) is based on the changing shape of clouds. This composer's music had been writing music of vague, slowly evolving textures for decades already, so you won't notice much difference from this new basis.
Saariaho's music of the 1980s and 1990s impressed me so much that I still loyally purchase Ondine collections whenever they come out, but I've been disappointed by her music of the last decade-plus. Some might argue that the composer has simply adopted a more audience-friendly idiom, but I disagree: her most powerful melodic writing came in the mid- to late-1990s, and recent works are more Debussyean studies in atmosphere than memorable tunes. With this kind of music, there's only so much the composer can do before she starts repeating herself, and in my opinion that point came already years ago.