Saariaho: New Gates; Cendres; Grammaire des rêves; Solar

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Saariaho
LABELS: Mode
WORKS: New Gates; Cendres; Grammaire des rêves; Solar
PERFORMER: Champ D’Action/James Wood
CATALOGUE NO: 91 (www.mode.com)
These ensemble pieces show how the virtues of Kaija Saariaho’s orchestral works, their fastidious use of instrumental colour and lucid harmonic schemes, are tellingly carried over into much sparser sound worlds. Even the one vocal work, Grammaire des rêves (also just issued on Ondine, reviewed last month), is not out of place, for this setting of fragments of Paul Eluard’s poetry effectively treats the soprano and contralto soloists instrumentally, persistently embedding them in the shifting, luminous textures. Solar, for 12 players, written for the group Champ d’Action which plays it intensely here, is perhaps the most impressive, showing Saariaho’s harmonic thinking at its most subtle – the music revolves around a fixed harmonic axis, yet creates a fluid patterning of rhythms and pitch centres. And the pared-down textures of the two works for flute, viola and harp, Cendres (derived from a double concerto for alto flute and cello, … a la fumée) and New Gates (a transcription of the second part of a ballet, Maa), show the way in which the emphasis of her music began to shift in the mid-Nineties – away from the vertical thinking of the Eighties and early Nineties towards more linear and quasi-melodic ideas which still retain the same sovereign control of long-range organisation and colouristic detail. Andrew Clements

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