Wolpe Trio

Kaija Saariaho: Chamber Music

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A skilled colorist and an innovative explorer of acoustics and live electronics, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho employs a wide variety of natural and synthesized sonorities in her uncompromisingly avant-garde chamber works. Incorporating computer technology with traditional instruments, Saariaho creates elaborate structures in which eerie twitters, haunting whispers, and occasionally frightening screeches unexpectedly emerge from more familiar timbres. Cendres; Noa Noa; the two versions of Mirrors, Spins and Spells; and Laconisme de l'aile cross back and forth between ordinary sound production and novel, otherworldly effects. Only Monkey Fingers, Velvet Hand for solo piano sounds conventional, though its riffs on "Come Together" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by the Beatles make it rather curious. But among this album's daring and predominantly dark pieces, Petals for cello and electronics and the Six Japanese Gardens for percussion and electronics are the most alien and chilling, and stand out as Saariaho's most original efforts. The Wolpe Trio -- flutist Lesley Olson, cellist Scott Roller, and pianist Susanne Achilles -- specializes in extended techniques and is clearly at home in Saariaho's strange but interesting music. Joined by virtuoso percussionist Andreas Boettger and electronics technician Thomas Neuhaus, these musicians present a fine package of new music, sympathetically played and recorded with clear and balanced sound.

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