Saariaho: La Passion de Simone

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COMPOSERS: Kaija Saariaho
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Saariaho: La Passion de Simone
WORKS: La Passion de Simone
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshore (soprano); Tapiola Chamber Choir; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen


The famous and creatively fertile trio of the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, librettist and poet Amin Maalouf, and the soprano Dawn Upshaw appears once again in this live recording from Saariaho’s 60th birthday concert at Helsinki’s new Music Centre in 2012. This is the composer’s oratorio, La Passion de Simone, a ‘musical path in 15 stations’ offering comments on, and quotations from, the life and works of the French-Jewish philosopher, pacifist and ascetic, Simone Weil, who died at the age of 34.

As with Saariaho’s L’amour de loin and Adriana Mater, this is a meditation on love without compromise. The singer/poet addresses Weil not uncritically; and her own words are sounded out in whispered interpolations. Like Weil herself, Saariaho is minutely attentive to sighs, whispers and silences: the words here are projected into elusive and allusive orchestral, choral and electronic sound worlds. They recreate aurally something of that ambivalence between light and darkness, weightlessness and gravity, suffering and bliss which characterises Weil’s extraordinary writings. And, as these levels of recession turn and shift, they are superbly engineered.

Dawn Upshaw’s always seems the perfect voice and sensibility for Saariaho’s music; and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Saariaho’s colleague from their student days, is an intensely engaged and sympathetic director of his forces and of the score.


Hilary Finch