KAIJA SAARIAHO (b.1952): Graal théâtre for Violin and Ensemble(Curtis 20/21 Ensemble; Conner Gray Covington), Tocar for Violin and Piano (Nicolas Hodges [piano]), Cloud Trio for String Trio (Hsin-Yun Hwang [viola], Wilhelmina Smith [cello]), Light and Matter for Piano Trio (Anssi Karttunen [cello], Hodges [piano] - First Recording), Aure for Violin and Cello (Karttunen).
Catalogue Number: 12U061
Reference: CDR 90000 183
Description: The violin was Saariaho's first instrument, and strings have always been the ideal instruments for her exquisitely sensitive use of timbre. The 'new' piece here is the trio Light and Matter (2014), which, wholly unsurprisingly, was inspired by the play of light and shadow on a city park opposite the composer's apartment. The music is buoyant and full of energy; not insubstantial, though. Light may be pure energy, but we only perceive it fully when it illuminates solid objects, and the range of textures - rough, intricate, delicate, ephemeral, permanent - in the piece is remarkable. Cloud Trio draws its imagery from the forms and movements of the shifting, ephemeral shapes of clouds, the higher instruments describing the formation, evolution and evaporation of the transforming cloud shapes, while the cello seems to echo them, suggesting the shadows cast on the landscape. The violin concerto, “Grail Theatre” is 'about' the theatricality of performance, the composer "thinking of an abstract search for the holy grail — whatever it would mean for each of us — and the concrete art form of the theatre." The composer describes the violin as wandering 'through different landscapes, leaving footprints behind'. The work is dramatic and intense, its tableaux limned in the composer's customary incandescent palette. The duo Aure meditates on a small sad phrase from Dutilleux's Memoire des ombres, setting a line from Anne Frank's diary. The piece is fragile yet intense, its emotional weight belying its brief duration. Jennifer Koh (violin).