ALBUM TITLE: Salonen
WORKS: Foreign Bodies; Wings on Wing; Insomnia
PERFORMER: Finnish RSO, Esa Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: 477 5375
Esa-Pekka Salonen is far more than a virtuoso conductor who also composes. As these three works reveal, the gorgeous or scintillating orchestration is only one of the features that make this music so memorable and instantly appealing. Foreign Bodies is also strongly argued, bursting with energy and full of the kind of ravishing sound-vistas that makes one want to go back and indulge again and again. And while the sampled voice of Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry introduces a distractingly conceptualist note in Wing on Wing, the sound of the two wordless sopranos weaving in and out of lush orchestral textures is unforgettable.
Most impressive is the darker, nervy Insomnia, a work that grows from its pregnant opening figures as surely as Sibelius, and at times explores similar haunted territory – though it rarely actually resembles the Finnish master (apart from a strong, telling hint of Nightride and Sunrise). Echoes of Reich, Adams and the later Lutos?awski can be heard, but they’re completely digested into Salonen’s overall style. The performances are stunning (no need to doubt Salonen’s credentials as his own interpreter), as are the recordings, which manage to capture a welter of detail without unbalancing the overall sound picture. Recommended. Stephen Johnson