SAARIAHO: Cinq reflets de L’Amour de loin; Nymphea Reflection; Oltra Mar

Kaija Saariaho: Cinq reflets de l’amour de loin; Nymphea Reflection; Oltra Mar
Pia Freund, soprano. Gabriel Suovanen, baritone.
Tapiola Chamber Choir. Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor. Ondine ODE 1049-2 [CD]

This is very pleasant new music, long in breath, richly scored, nice poetry, nothing pretentious, but good solid rewarding composition. Ms. Saariaho is truly adept at making a great orchestral score, and she has a way with voices, particularly Pia Freund’s on the first track, which truly soars.
From the liner notes, we glean that Saariaho (born in 1952) is obviously accomplished, certainly well known in her Finnish native land, presumably in Paris where she now resides. She fits in well with a principally European kind of new music–drawing on abundant orchestral resources, she belongs in a tradition that goes back to the early (and lush) Schoenberg but also Debussy and the French twentieth century tradition of experiment. Saariaho has at least five other Ondine CDs of her work, and one suspects they are as well brought off as this one.
We cannot help but characterize this as slightly conservative new music. Experimentalism is toned down, well kept in hand by an abundant craft. In this regard it makes a perfect gift for someone familiar with twentieth-century composition, but who might be put off by aggressive experiment. Well recommended, then, not necessarily for the novice, but certainly for the amateur.
Murray Dineen
University of Ottawa