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).
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. He is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and the Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. This season is his second of three as the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, and his first of five years as Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet.
Renowned as one of the world's leading conductors, Esa-Pekka Salonen is also a gifted composer of highly expressive, colorful, and idiomatic music that has found a growing audience. His Violin Concerto (2009) won the 2012 Grawemeyer Prize and was composed for Leila Josefowicz, who performs as soloist with Salonen and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra on this Deutsche Grammophon release. The dazzling virtuosity of the violin part translates into equally flashy writing for the orchestra, and it's apparent that Salonen wrote with a conductor's ear for all the instruments' capabilities, not primarily for the violin above an indifferent accompaniment.
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