Another composer who just does not need any help, this week we are going to listen to some Saariaho. The piece in particular is one of her chamber works, written for cello, piano, and percussion, called Serenatas.
A Brief Overview of Saariaho
One of the reasons why I say Kaija Saariaho does not need any help is because she is considered to be one of the most prolific composers ever to live. Her education includes the Sibelius Academy in Finland, Freiburg, the Darmstadt summer courses, and IRCAM.
She is most often lumped in with the spectralist composers, but I pick up a very clear difference between her music and that of others in the same category in that her music often has a modal anchor to it. This anchor definitely provides more orientation in what otherwise could be a cloud of sound, and focuses the piece with more perceivable intent and direction. One can hear these attributes in later works such as Notes on Light, as well as the Serenatas. Apparently, Saariaho attributes this to her vocal writing.
Her list of awards, teaching assignments, and commissions is extensive, and her catalogue of compositions is in the 400s of this publication.
A bit about the piece
Saariaho's program notes are pretty solid on this piece. Each movement is based on her attitude towards the material, and the impetus of the piece is emotion. What I greatly appreciate about the piece is that it is five single-servings of a splash of modal spectralism; something I would refer to as a "gateway piece." Each serenade is a miniature, and thus long enough to let you listen to something interesting while also being short enough to let you hear something new with very little waiting. They also are high in contrast, which is alway a plus for me!
On top of all of this, the movements can be reordered as decided by the performers, so the progress can be dictated on the context of the performance. It means the piece is versatile in that it can serve most purposes, can be broken up across a concert, or can be its own isolated event. Obviously, you can tell that I like this one, but hopefully you will like it as well!