Review: Kaija Saariaho: “Aile du songe”

We're only two weeks into the new Atlanta Symphony Orchestra season and already we might have heard the performance of the year. …principal flutist Christina Smith hummed, whirred, spat, recited French Symbolist poetry, and not least, played a hauntingly gorgeous flute in Kaija Saariaho's AILE DU SONGE, a 2001 flute concerto by one of Finland's most esteemed composers…The "Wing of the Dream" comes in two parts, "Aérial" and "Terrestrial." The imagery is drawn from a collection of poems, Oiseaux, by Saint-Jean Perse. The music, like the poems, contemplates the mystery of birds in flight rather than chirping birdsong. Musically, the first section evokes the American desert Southwest. The flute opens with languid upward scales across two octaves… The harp rolls out dreamy fog, punctuated by the rattlesnake sound of crotales…At one point the cellos and basses provide the rumble of faraway thunder. Yet the music is almost still… The solo flute and orchestra interact much more in the second section, and the mood grows jittery. In an ear-catching effect, the score asks the flutist to vocalize words as she blows the notes. First it's pips and whoops and then, near the end, snatches of poetry… Saariaho's cool modernist aesthetic…[is] never coddling, but neither is it unfriendly. Like the natural world, it simply exists apart from our expectations. - Pierre Ruhe, Atlanta Journal Constitution Kaija Saariaho AILE DU SONGE Duration: 18’ Solo Flute; 0000/0000/perc.timp/hp.cel/ str( stands) Christina Smith, flute Atlanta Symphony/Spano 22 September 2005, Atlanta, GA

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