Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Salonen, Cello Concerto, Yo-Yo Ma, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Essa-Pekka Salonen

An orchestral composer of any merit can considerably refine her or his craft while practicing as a conductor. In the course of a season naturally the conductor studies deeply a number of scores, so that the art of writing and scoring effectively for the orchestra is always being considered. We all know Essa-Pekka Salonen as a conductor and a well-known, highly revered one at that. That he is also a very excellent composer becomes clear to us with the recent World Premiere Recording of his Cello Concerto (Sony Classics 19075928482) featuring the always very rhapsodic cello of Yo-Yo Ma, with the composer conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

It is a kind of dream-laden soundscape we enter, mysterious, somewhat reminiscent of Scriabin in his later period, harmonically forward and well orchestrated, atmospheric, a kind of hot-house terrarium of night-blooming fullness, of exotica in all its spicy speciality.

The composer states in the liners, "I imagined the solo cello line as a trajectory of a moving object in space being followed by other lines/instruments/moving objects." The cello is trailed mysteriously by a cloud of instrumental imitation. "Sometimes the imitating cloud flies above the cello, sometimes in the very same register. It thins out to two lines and finally to one." The orchestral part and solo part, then, are organically linked in a process that is interwoven beautifully together. One listens to what seems like an extravagantly fanciful organicity, at once Mythically Modern and complexly expressive.

Yo-Yo Ma plays his part with heroic lyricism and the orchestra under Salonen takes on a life remarkable and memorable.

This is expertly conceived and realized music of high invention. If this is a first salvo then we can hope Salonen might well become a very important compositional voice of our time. Very recommended.

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