Saariaho: L’aile du songe; Laconisme de l’aile; Poems by Saint-John Perse

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LABELS: Naïve Montaigne
WORKS: L’aile du songe; Laconisme de l’aile; Poems by Saint-John Perse
PERFORMER: Camilla Hoitenga (flute), Amin Maalouf (reader); Finnish RSO/Jukka-Pekka Saraste
For listeners who normally find the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho too acerbic – for all her imaginative skill and power – the two flute works recorded here may be pleasantly surprising. Nearly 20 years separates the early Laconisme de l’aile from the flute concerto L’aile du songe, and yet in spirit they have a lot in common. The discovery of France (the country and its culture as much as its music) has had a wonderfully liberating, enriching effect on Saariaho’s sound-world, an effect which Laconisme de l’aile (inspired by the poetry of Saint-John Perse) often seems to reach towards. Saariaho’s flute-writing is very personal, but it’s not hard to make out echoes of the Debussy of Syrinx and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. It’s a reborn Debussian refinement and languor with an occasional steely glint – a blend flautist Camilla Hoitenga achieves very naturally in her polished but also very vital performances.


As for the extra tracks, they aren’t quite as generous as they first appear. What we have are six poems by Saint-John Perse, with ‘sonic environment’ by Saariaho, read first in French, then in English. Saariaho’s electronic backdrop to the verse weaves birdsong and sampled flute to make a touchingly pure rainforest-like sound tapestry, but I’m not sure that having it in English as well as French adds much to the experience – the booklet translations were enough for me.