Monday, March 18, 2013

Notes before a Final (5): Kaija Saariaho

One of the things I constantly find myself saying when I take part in discussions about future repertoire for the orchestra I play in is to emphasise the need to put in music by people who aren't dead. Everything I've played and planned to play thus far in this competition was written in the past century, and can be described as contemporary in the sense that it was written by people who were alive within living memory (my parents' if not mine). However, it's still all written by dead people (and reasonably long-dead people at that - the most recently breathing composer, Lutosławksi, dies over 20 years ago). It therefore seemed a matter of urgency to include something by someone still alive. As with the Falla, I found what I needed by trawling through Spotify and other online sources for recordings.

Kaija Saariaho scores double points for being not only a non-dead composer, but also a non-male one. She's white and European, but two out of four ain't bad, I figure.

Sept Papillons (Seven Butterflies) is a work for cello solo. This seemed to create a nice symmetry: I begin with just me, introduce a piano for the two 1914 pieces, and finish alone again (no singing this time though). I'm playing the sixth papillon. It's an extraordinary piece, that seems to exist on the edge of silence. It's full of tapping, high ethereal noises and harmonics, and has a sense of weightlessness abut it. After the richness of tone that the Falla demands, this is something's else entirely: silvery, glittering and brittle. At the end it just seems to evaporate. It connects to the Webern's gossamer textures, just as the Falla and Partch seem to connect by their more earthly moods.

Having moved from loss and despair through to consolation and peace, this seems to me to take things somewhere else, more ethereal and otherworldly. It's absolutely not a rousing climax, it's not designed to bring the crowd to their feet, but that's not what I'm aiming for. I figure that's what's expected in this sort of event, and what's expected seems to me to the least interesting thing you could do. I hope that rather, this sequence will provide something nourishing for the soul.

No comments: