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Monday, April 8, 2013

Kaija Saariaho, La Passion de Simone

Kaija Saariaho has given us an oratorio for soprano (Dawn Upshaw), choir (Tapiola Chamber Choir), and symphony orchestra (the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, all under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen). The work is about the life-thoughts of philosopher activist Simone Weill (1909-1943). La Passion de Simone (Ondine ODE 1217-5) has an epic yet fully modern quality. It is a testament to the dramatic sense and sound-poetic acumen of the composer (b. 1952).

And this recording feels like a definitive one--Upshaw, the chorus and orchestra, Salonen's interpretive enthusiasm and the sound production all make for an exceptional experience.

I have not had a great deal of exposure to Saariaho and her work but most surely on the basis of this Passion she is one of the best of the living generations with us today. In any event La Passion has a depth of feeling and a sound painting brilliance virtually unmatched among those writing in the present century. This version says it with all the brilliance clearly before your ears. A masterful, highly charged atmospheric work that has the bite of Wozzeck, in a definitive performance? Yes, all that.

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