KAIJA SAARIAHO (b.1952): Émilie Suite for Orchestra, Terra Memoria for String Orchestra, 4 Instants for Soprano and Orchestra.
Catalogue Number: 02Q068
Reference: ODE 1255-2
Description: In somewhat of a contrast with the abstract, intangible luminosity of her instrumental compositions, especially those with electronics, the introduction of the human voice in Saariaho's dramatic works mines a deep vein of Romantic feeling, intense, dark and passionate. This is certainly true of both Quatre instants and the suite arranged from her 2008-09 opera Émilie. Both set texts by Saariaho's long-time collaborator Amin Maalouf. The opera examines the multi-faceted life of a remarkable woman, the Marquise Émilie du Châtelet (1706-49), a scientist and mathematician, friend and lover of poets (including Voltaire). The action of the monodrama, in which Émilie reflects on her life of science, philosophy, love and passion, was distilled into this five-movement suite by the composer, highlighting key elements of the drama in three arias and two orchestral interludes. As in the four songs, the subject of which is also remembered love and passion, the vocal writing is of highly charged emotional content and emotional intensity, the rich harmony of the accompanying orchestral material very late-romantic in feeling, steeped in the sensuous excess of the final flowering of fin-de-siècle romanticism. Terra Memoria also refers to memory; the shifting tides of recollection of the departed by the living. The work overlays layers of transforming material over others that remain constant and recognisable, with the composer's customary exquisite attention to timbre and instrumental texture. In its brief excursions into a kind of tonal territory, something of the atmosphere of Verklärte Nacht is conjured, and even when the language becomes more dissonant, this sense of deeply textured, nocturnal longing remains. French-English texts. Karen Vourc'h (soprano), Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg; Marko Letonja.