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. Josefowicz's violin weaves in and out of the concerto's shifting, kaleidoscopic textures, appearing and disappearing as one evanescent element of the larger organic whole, but always integrated with the orchestra's activity in all its complexity. Nyx (2010) is an orchestral depiction of the Greek goddess of the night, and Salonen's abilities as a tone poet are fully on display in this 20-minute tour de force. If there is one influence that shines through this darkly brilliant score, it seems to be Sibelius, for Salonen shares much of the master's sensitivity to low timbres and evocative use of effects to create vivid musical images. Deutsche Grammophon has recorded both works with spectacular reproduction, and the richness and depth of the orchestration is easy to appreciate because of the transparent sound.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson