Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho continues to produce music with a sonic sensuality that's never less than gripping. She is a masterful orchestrator and her work vibrates with fascinating colors and textures that demand attention. Her pieces tend to have a tone of evanescent mystery, and that's the prevailing mood of the three orchestral works that are given their premiere recording on this 2011 Ondine release. They are loosely programmatic in that their titles make specific artistic or literary allusions that give listeners a frame of reference for understanding her intentions. Saariaho's music uses a full range of contemporary techniques (with a special affinity for French spectralism), but its focused expressiveness gives it a powerfully direct emotional impact. The 2010 Clarinet Concerto, "D'om le vrai sense," was inspired by the familiar Medieval tapestry series The Lady and the Unicorn. Kari Kriikku plays the daunting solo part with assurance and full command of a range of extended instrumental techniques. Listeners who are put off by the squeaks and yawps that can characterize amateur clarinet playing should be advised that the piece uses the instrument in a number of non-lyrical ways, and even though the playing is virtuosically purposeful and artful, for those listeners this may not be the ideal starting point for exploring Saariaho. Laterna Magica is based on Ingmar Bergman's memoir of the same name and includes extended sections in which players whisper his phrases describing the quality of light over an incandescent orchestral murmur. The four Leino Songs showcase the composer's gift for writing graceful, lyrical vocal lines, and soprano Anu Komsi sings with clarity and warmth and with a strong sense of drama. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra plays with clarity and understanding under Sakari Oramo. Ondine's sound is clean, detailed, and present.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Clarinet Concerto "D'Om Le Vrai Sens"|