Issued to celebrate Esa-Pekka Salonen’s time with the Los Angeles Philharmonic (he is now their first ever conductor laureate), this valuable disc really points us to how important Salonen may be seen one day as a composer. Although he reputedly sees his conducting activities as bill-paying ones, he is nevertheless ultra-high profile (he is presently principal conductor and artistic advisor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra).
This sensational disc has served as a reference edition for both concertos since it was first issued back in the late 1980s. The Sibelius concerto is distinguished by the tension between Lin’s passionate and virtuosic account of the solo part and Salonen’s remarkable precision at the head of the orchestra. Listen, for example, to the remarkable rhythmic clarity at the opening of the finale, and to the way this serves to “float” Lin’s daredevil pyrotechnics up above. It’s just marvellous. The same holds true of the Nielsen–there is no finer account of this neglected concerto. It’s a rarity because in the finale Nielsen subordinates flash and dazzle to the work’s overall emotional arc, progressing from anger to contentment. That doesn’t mean the music isn’t excellent, or that Lin and Salonen’s performances aren’t gripping from first note to last. They tear into the opening movement with apt ferocity and find the necessary emotional resolution in the work’s amiable conclusion. The detailed, well-balanced sound ideally suits the interpretations. Essential.
This is a splendid recording, featuring three of Shostakovich's major works involving his own instrument, the piano. They display all the mercurial, contradictory aspects of his style, from dance-hall banality to sophisticated counterpoint and inspired melodic inventiveness, from mournful desolation and bleak hopelessness to the wild, obsessive, sardonic humor of desperation…The resulting performances are brilliant, moving, and exciting; Bronfman's virtuosity is stunning and the solo trumpeter in the first concerto is terrific. The string playing is wonderful–rich and colorful in sound, rhythmically incisive, deeply expressive; the first violinist's tone soars radiantly in the many stratospheric passages. –Edith Eisler; Editorial Reviews; Amazon.com
La Passion de Simone is an oratorio for solo soprano, choir, orchestra, and electronics by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. Originally premiered in a stage version directed by Peter Sellars, this oratorio about the life and work of French philosopher Simone Weil, has been developed in a new version for live video by Jean-Baptiste Barriere. This new version premiered at the occasion of the 60th birthday celebration of Kaija Saariaho, offered to her as a surprise gift in Helsinki’s Musikkitalo earlier this month.
Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone, an oratorio about the life and thoughts of Simone Weil for soprano solo, choir, orchestra and electronics, is now being released for the first time on CD. La Passion de Simone is not only the most important work by Kaija Saariaho (even she herself said so), but this recording features top performers including soprano Dawn Upshaw and Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Tapiola Chamber Choir.
Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is one of the few indisputably great masters of his trade… The orchestra has never sounded better - in fact, the playing on this disc is so staggeringly fine that you're simply not conscious of it at all. Salonen's interpretation is equally persuasive. It's so natural that it actually makes the work - the longest symphony in the repertoire - seem short… Check out the end of the first movement for the most exciting and passionate five minutes of music you're ever likely to hear. Greatness, folks, pure and simple. - Editorial Reviews - Amazon.com, David Hurwitz
L.A. Variations sounds more like a cohesive one-movement symphony than a series of "variations". It has primary and secondary themes. Melodies that are briefly introduced early in the peice come to their full expression at the end. Salonen's (b. 1958) music is shimmering and powerful and deep and intelligent. It has the bigness of Bruckner, the sweep of Wagner and the lush, layering complexity of Debussy.... There are many enjoyable harmonies between music and voice in "Five Images After Sappho" which, surprisingly to me, often reminds me of some Sondheim compositions. "Giro", "Mania" and "Gambit" are earlier Salonen works that seem to have been more fully developed later in Wing on Wing and Insomnia. ... Giro has an eerieness that is addictive, a bit like Bartok, but better structured and certainly more concise. Mania is more like a mainstream, concerto second-movement that has a sad and lovely quality. Gambit is a big, modern Salonen engine that constantly strives forward. Something that is always at the heart of his compositions.
This trio of recent works by Salonen (b. 1958) suggests that he's one of the most interesting composers on today's scene. All three share the virtues of his highly individual style, modernistic and accessible. “Foreign Bodies” is music of muscular, extroverted energy; “Wing on Wing” meditates mesmerizingly on the architectural ideas of Frank Gehry, assembling high-tech orchestral-electronic textures that gleam and shimmer like the wings of Disney Hall.
"...two coloratura sopranos join the orchestra sometimes as soloists, sometimes as instruments among others. In the beginning of the piece I pair them with the lowest-sounding woodwind instruments, the contrabassoon and the contrabass clarinet, and create a new kind of hybrid instrument, a sci-fi fantasy of a union between humans and machines."