Saariaho: From the Grammar of Dreams; Farewell

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COMPOSERS: Saariaho
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: From the Grammar of Dreams; Farewell
PERFORMER: Anu Komsi, Piia Komsi (soprano), Riikka Rantanen (mezzo-soprano), Petteri Salomaa (baritone); Avanti!/Hannu Lintu
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 958-2
Kaija Saariaho’s reputation as one of the most distinctive European composers of her generation is founded upon her instrumental and orchestral works, often using electronics, in which her fastidious ear for sonority and sure-footed harmonic organisation have been magically employed. But she has consistently written vocal music too – her first opera, L’amour de loin, was premiered at the Salzburg Festival last summer, and as this beguiling collection demonstrates she is marvellously responsive to the weight and meaning of texts.

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There are unaccompanied pieces here, as well as songs with piano and with ensemble, and the selection of literature is wide-ranging – from Shakespeare (in the pair of Tempest settings, ‘Miranda’s Lament’ and ‘Caliban’s Dream’) via Hölderlin and Apollinaire to Eluard and Plath. Most are miniatures, and the most substantial works are those that give the CD its title. From the Grammar of Dreams uses Plath’s poems and passages from her novel The Bell Jar for a series of meditations for two sopranos, whose voices are interwoven and superimposed in a delicate, weightless way, while the independent Grammaire des rêves takes Eluard as its starting point, and surrounds the soloists, soprano and contralto, with characteristically febrile instrumental textures, against which the voices can stand in relief, or become submerged. Andrew Clements