Saariaho and Saarikoski

Saariaho and Saarikoski
Anu Komsi and Kaija Saariaho
© Ville Paasimaa / Christophe Abramowitz

On March 29 and 30 soprano Anu Komsi, for whom the work was written, will give the Finnish premiere of Saarikoski Songs by Kaija Saariaho with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo. Then on May 7 the UK premiere at the Barbican Centre forms part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Total Immersion Day, dedicated to Saariaho’s work with Sakari Oramo conducting the BBCSO with Anu Komsi.

Watch a live stream of the Finnish Premiere here

Aleksi Barrière collaborated closely with Saariaho on the song texts and also created the English translation. Read here what he says about the texts: 

"The collection Alue (The District, 1973) is an apparent break from Pentti Saarikoski’s output of the 1960s which was centred on political commentary and poetry as a means for social transformation. It was also written shortly before his separation from his wife and self-imposed exile to Sweden where he authored his last works inspired by a renewed interest in Greek mythology. The text of Alue is written in the form of unnumbered fragments comprising reflections on the author’s life his walks in the Helsinki neighbourhood of Pohjois-Haaga with his child between winter and spring and the destruction of the nearby forest to give way to new apartment buildings."


But the face of nature is peaceful
will be till the end of the world.
The spring days smell like imprecise memories,
of a hand, of an agitated breath.
The forest is an academy obliterated by barbarians.
In the wind can be heard
the song of birds who died in the extinction.


Everyone from now on will have their own this
to which they are bound.
No further changes will be made.
Nope it has become impossible.
It has not been banned by law
since it has in fact become impossible.
It has not started to be frowned upon
since it has in fact become impossible.
From now on everyone here will have
their own this to which they cling.


But we see
a bed of grey reeds
and we rejoice.
But we touch a stone
and we rejoice.
All of this has happened recently.
And we rejoice
together with everything that is.


The snake closes its mouth in a bite.
And the bird won’t open her wings.
We came through a noisy forest.
And through the air.
Nobody ought to tell about this district.
In me the bird and the snake


The interstitial time
into mountains that I see
without looking through the mist.

– Pentti Saarikoski
English translation by Aleksi Barrière


The 2017 piano and voice version of the Saarikoski Songs was written for Anu Komsi and this orchestral version (2020) was commissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig Gewandhaus.


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