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Salonen: LA Variations; Five Images after Sappho; Mania; Gambit; Giro.

Dawn Upshaw, soprano/Anssi Karttunen, cello/Los Angeles Philharmonic/London Sinfonietta/ Esa-Peka Salonen (Sony Classical SK 89158)

Esa-Peka Salonen is best known as the relatively young (b. 1945--so I think I say that in this case ...), vibrant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But like other famous conductors such as Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein, Salonen considers himself primarily as a composer. From the evidence on this CD, he is an excellent composer, and I look forward to hearing more of his work in the future.

Three of the compositions on this recording are works for orchestra performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. LA Variations is lively and energetic, a real showpiece for Salonen's orchestra. Although it may put off those who are looking for stately melodies, this is a piece that rewards repeated listening. I hope that I do not make it sound imposing or severe, for those things this music is not. It is fun and inviting and energetic. Giro (no, not the Greek food, but from the Italian girare, meaning "to turn") is more serious and intense, but still quite listenable. Gambit, which closes the CD, features swirling passages that convey a sense of energy and purpose over its eight brief minutes.

Five Images after Sappho features the soaring voice of soprano Dawn Upshaw, whom many readers might recall for her contribution to the best-selling Nonesuch recording of Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Mania is scored for solo cello and a small ensemble; it is both wistful and sparkling.

Those who think Western music has pretty much gone steadily downhill after, say, Schubert, may not find much to like here, but those who enjoy Mahler, Shostakovich, and Sibelius should find elements of Salonen's music to which they can relate. To those readers, I recommend this CD highly.
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Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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