Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho came out if the IRCAM electronic labs, and Private Gardens showcases four pieces for individual soloists accompanied by electronics. "Lonh" features soprano Dawn Upshaw singing a medieval text in a style overtly modeled on medieval plainsong surrounded by murmuring electronics that accentuate and sometimes echo her voice. It's dreamy and pleasant, although it occasionally drifts a bit close to the sort of new agey music that was popularize by those singing monks of the mid-'90s. The following work, "Pres," for solo cellist, is far more aggressive and generally successful, evoking memories of Penderecki's "Cello Sonata" from the late '60s, tough with a smoother veneer. Its lesser programmatic content, compared to the other compositions on this album, works to its advantage. The "Six Japanese Gardens" comes off beset with exoticism, a well-intentioned attempt to offer a musical response to the Zen-inspired rock gardens of Japan but eventually sounding simply touristy, replete with tuned gongs and bland electronics. It's not too many steps from here to Tomita-like kitsch. All of the music is cleanly and attractively executed but, aside from "Pres," little of it packs enough creative grit for listeners attuned to marginally related work from Xenakis or Penderecki. On the other hand, those who have become unsatisfied with ECM-ish new age/classical music could do worse than to check out Saariaho.
Share this page