Salonenís brilliantly successful conducting career
has somewhat overshadowed his composing activities. The present release,
mostly of recent pieces, helps put the balance straight, as did an earlier
FINLANDIA disc some time ago (FINLANDIA 4509-95607-2 released in 1994).
Salonen is first and foremost a composer of no mean achievement. His
earlier works, with the exception of his brilliant Saxophone Concerto,
completed in 1981, and revised in 1983, were generally short chamber
pieces. However, over the last years, Salonen has regularly composed
for orchestra with magnificent results.
LA Variations, completed in 1997, is
Salonenís most substantial work so far. It is brilliantly scored for
full orchestra and moves along with seemingly effortless invention and
imagination. Salonenís orchestral mastery is evident throughout.
In complete contrast, Five Images after Sappho
(1999) for soprano and ensemble is a most beautiful song cycle, delicately
and subtly scored for small orchestra, of which the music possesses
some Ravel-like transparency. The piece is a setting of several fragments
from Sappho tracing a womanís life from her birth to her wedding, alternating
moments of joy or grief, exaltation or reverie. A minor masterpiece
of ravishing beauty.
Giro was completed as far back as 1981,
put aside after a couple of performances and rewritten in 1997. The
rewriting cannot completely conceal the nature of the earlier material
and, as a result, the sound world of the piece is harsher and more stringent
than Salonenís more recent music. Nevertheless Giro is
a quite impressive piece on its own right that needs Ė and vastly repays
Ė repeated hearings.
Mania, completed in 2001, is another
example of Salonenís beautifully crafted music. This is a real tour
de force in instrumental velocity, though the composer allows the
cello to be its own self and indulge in long lyrical lines. The whole
leaves a clear impression of supreme mastery.
Gambit (1998) was written as a birthday
present to the composerís friend and colleague Magnus Lindberg. It is
a short, overtly celebratory piece, brilliantly scored and deftly written
throughout. It may be slightly more superficial than the other pieces
recorded here but it provides for a joyfully uplifting conclusion to
this most welcome release that offers a fine survey of Salonenís recent
achievement as a composer.
Everyone here sings and plays with assurance, commitment,
dedication and obvious enjoyment. Warmly recommended for Salonen is
a fine composer of whom we may hope to hear more soon.