Esa-Pekka Salonen is known primarily as a conductor, particularly for his work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, but he considers himself essentially a composer with a day job as a conductor. His high profile as a performer certainly opens the possibilities for top-notch performances of his works, and he makes ample use of those opportunities, writing for some outstanding international ensembles and soloists. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and pianist Yefim Bronfman are featured here in the composer's Helix, a work for orchestra, and his Piano Concerto and Dichotomie for piano solo. Each of the pieces demonstrates Salonen's ability to incorporate the rigorous disciplines inculcated by his training with modernists such as Franco Donatoni and Niccolò Castiglioni into a friendlier musical language more characteristic of his teacher Einojuhani Rautavaara and his colleagues Magnus Lindberg and John Adams. While his music would never be mistaken for theirs, the composers whose music his most resembles in the pieces recorded here are John Adams, for its harmonic language and expressive sweep, and Louis Andriessen, for its restless, sometimes mechanistic propulsiveness. Helix, a 10-minute tone poem, bristles with energy and drive, as does "Méchanisme," the first movement of the piano solo Dichotomie. The Piano Concerto, which Salonen wrote for his friend Bronfman, is an especially attractive and varied work, structurally inventive and surprising, full of brilliantly original orchestrations. Bronfman pulls off the virtuosic piano part with panache, and Salonen's vibrant conducting creates enormous momentum. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean and sparkling.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Dichotomie, for piano|