Saariaho: 'The Heart of Light'

Saariaho: 'The Heart of Light'
© Astrid Karger
When the Boston Symphony offered Kaija Saariaho a commission to write a work for a soloist of her choosing, she knew immediately that she would write a concerto for her longtime collaborator and muse — cellist Anssi Karttunen. On 22 February, Karttunen and the Boston Symphony premiere Notes on Light, with Jukka-Pekka Saraste conducting four performances.

Karttunen shares his insights on the eve of the premiere:
"At first sight, Notes on Light — with its five movements — doesn't quite resemble the average Cello Concerto. However, with a closer look, I soon found the elements that I like to think make a great concerto: the relationship of soloist and orchestra goes through many different situations; the cello is given the chance to show its full versatility; when the soloist has important things to say, the orchestra gives it space and the orchestra also gets its moments to lift the music up into exuberant colors.

"The soloist is not just the hero of Notes on Light, he/she also has to stand up for his rights, fight, lead, collaborate with and sometimes submit to the orchestra. All these make Notes on Light a rich voyage that could well lead us into the very heart of light."
                                       ...I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

— from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," quoted by Saariaho on the last page of the score.