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Kaija Saariaho: Sumun Läpi (Through The Mist)

Anu Komsi (soprano), Pia Värri (piano) (Colora Maestra)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
CM01_Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho
Sumun Läpi (Through the Mist) – Preludi-Tunnustus-Postludi; Leino Songs; Du gick, flög; Il Pleut; Saarikoski Songs
Anu Komsi (soprano), Pia Värri (piano)
ColoraMaestro CM 01   52:36 mins

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Even without Kaija Saariaho’s clear and unassuming programme notes, it would be evident from this breathtaking album that poetry and the soprano voice have been central to her composing life – and that soprano Anu Komsi has been a significant collaborator, here joined by her own longterm artistic partner, pianist Pia Värri.

From the miniature student triptych Preludi-Tunnustus-Postludi (1980), via Du gick, flög (1982) and Il Pleut (1986) to the Leino Songs (2000-07) and world premiere recording of the Saarikoski Songs (2013-20), it’s a compelling collection spanning Swedish, French and Finnish poems – and painting a vivid portrait of a consummate art-song composer.

The vocal and expressive range is astonishing, delivered with a poise and precision that goes to the core of Saariaho’s uniquely intense yet ethereal soundworld. Indeed in those early miniatures for example, and ‘Sydän’ (My Heart, from Leino Songs), there’s a rawness at times, as composer and performers alike respond to the poems with a ferocity that’s extraordinarily direct yet refined and suggestive of worlds of feeling.

Both song cycles stem from commissions by Komsi and represent journeys for Saariaho of some seven years with very contrasting literary figures. The Leino Songs step into the poet’s ‘rather grandiloquent world’ to locate his delicacy and darker urgency with a fineness that resonates through devotion and rage. Completed during Covid lockdown, the Saarikoski Songsshimmer with anguish and uncertainty, and a beauty couched in exquisite forms ultimately seen ‘without looking though the mist’.

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Steph Power