Saariaho: Graal Théâtre; Château de l’âme; Amers

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WORKS: Graal Théâtre; Château de l’âme; Amers
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Anssi Karttunen (cello); BBC SO, Finnish Radio Chamber Choir, Finnish RSO, Avanti!/Esa-Pekka Salonen
These are three major works by Kaija Saariaho, which straddle the point in the mid-Nineties when her music radically changed direction. Where the pieces of the previous 15 years that had established her reputation were vertically conceived, relying heavily on the manipulation of texture and colour and frequently using electronic transformations, around 1994 she began working with linear, melodic ideas and more regular rhythmic patterns, though the fastidious imagination for sonority remained as acute as ever.


Composed in 1992, Amers, for cello, ensemble and electronics, belongs with the scores of Saariaho’s earlier period, moving in broad continuums of sound, often coloured by harmonics, and conjuring up images of seascapes, while the violin concerto Graal Théâtre was the first major work to concentrate on linear ideas. It’s a powerful, striking two-movement work, with an extremely demanding solo part composed specifically for Gidon Kremer, in which the violin first leads the orchestra through a variety of different musical environments and then finds itself in conflict with it. The rapt and rhapsodic Château de l’âme sets Indian and Ancient Egyptian texts about love, each given a different acoustical aura by the orchestra and the choir that support the soprano soloist; it is as openly expressive as anything Saariaho has written. Andrew Clements