Quatre instants;* Terra Memoria; Émilie Suite*
*Karen Vourch (soprano), Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, cond. Marko Letonja
Ondine ODE 1255-2
All three Kaija Saariaho pieces here are what you might call metaworks: they’re derived from other scores.
Quatre instants is the version she orchestrated from the voice-and-piano original, both from 2002. In its emphasis on the sensuous, its delicate, orientalising orchestration and its textual emphasis on love, it lies directly downstream from Szymanowski’s sultry song-cycles.
Terra Memoria was first heard in 2007, in its original scoring for string quartet; this string-orchestra version was premiered in 2010. It’s an essay in psychology as well as sonority, the music edging forward hesitantly, like an anxious conversation; it, too, takes its place in a musical tradition, in this instance the one that began with Schoenberg’s Verlklärte Nacht.
The Émilie Suite is a half-hour condensation, to a 2011 commission, of Saariaho’s monologue opera Émilie of 2007–8, reduced to three vocal numbers separated by two orchestral interludes – a dramatic cantata in all but name, alternately formal and beguiling, intimate and angry, almost from gesture to gesture.
As the music requires, Karen Vourch sails over and weaves among the delicate textures conjured up by Marko Letonja’s Strasbourg musicians.