These recordings of fairly early works by Salonen were
made and released between 1988 and 1993, and most of them were already
re-issued on FINLANDIA 4509-95607-2 in 1994. (Yta IIb,
Nachtlieder and Meeting were not included
Nachtlieder (1978) is the earliest piece
that Salonen still acknowledges. This serious, expressionistic piece
is still redolent of Alban Berg whose Vier Stücke Op.4
were certainly Salonenís model, but none the worse for that.
The other solo pieces belong to Salonenís experimental
period in which he explored and exploited the instrumentsí possibilities
to their extreme. In this respect, the voice part in Floof
is also almost instrumental and, in any case, highly virtuosic and brings
Berioís Sequenza III to mind. Yta I (alto
flute, 1982), Yta II (piano, 1985) and Yta III
(cello, 1986) are all brilliant, technically taxing fantasies exploiting
the instrumental resources to the full and often achieving stunning
effects. Yta IIb was arranged for harpsichord by Jukka
Tiensuu and, of course, almost sounds as a quite different piece. Floof
is also a short showpiece for soprano and small ensemble setting
a rather surrealistic text to which Salonenís overtly virtuosic, almost
histrionic music humorously responds. Meeting for clarinet
and harpsichord has much in common with the other pieces, a.o. a technically
demanding solo writing evoking some fantastic visions.
The Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra,
completed in 1983 and revised in 1983, may Ė to a certain extent Ė be
considered as the outcome of the preceding experiments as well as a
pointer towards Salonenís mature works. There is still much frantic
activity throughout the piece but other aspects of Salonenís musical
thinking are now clearly audible, most important of all, a newly found
interest for longer lines and for warmer orchestral textures, which
characterise some of his most recent pieces such as the magnificent
LA Variations (1996/7) and the beautifully atmospheric
Images after Sappho (1999).
Mimo II, completed in 1992, is a small-scale
concerto for oboe and orchestra in which Salonenís mature writing shines
in full bloom. Elegance, sureness of touch and orchestral mastery are
now evident throughout this brilliant, colourful and inventive piece.
So, in short, the present release is as welcome as
it is timely, for it usefully complements SONYís recent release coupling
several recent works of Salonen (SONY SK 89158, reviewed here some time
ago) and provides for a comprehensive and illuminating (as well as musically
satisfying) survey of Salonenís early musical progress.
All the performers have enjoyed Ė and still do Ė a
long association with Salonenís music and these performances cannot,
I believe, be bettered. Though a busy and successful conductor, Salonen
is first and foremost a most distinguished composer whose achievement
is well worth considering.