This sensational disc has served as a reference edition for both concertos since it was first issued back in the late 1980s. The Sibelius concerto is distinguished by the tension between Lin’s passionate and virtuosic account of the solo part and Salonen’s remarkable precision at the head of the orchestra. Listen, for example, to the remarkable rhythmic clarity at the opening of the finale, and to the way this serves to “float” Lin’s daredevil pyrotechnics up above. It’s just marvellous. The same holds true of the Nielsen–there is no finer account of this neglected concerto. It’s a rarity because in the finale Nielsen subordinates flash and dazzle to the work’s overall emotional arc, progressing from anger to contentment. That doesn’t mean the music isn’t excellent, or that Lin and Salonen’s performances aren’t gripping from first note to last. They tear into the opening movement with apt ferocity and find the necessary emotional resolution in the work’s amiable conclusion. The detailed, well-balanced sound ideally suits the interpretations. Essential.
Two separate episodes that have in common the door which separates good from evil. In the first segment, "Alguien al teléfono", Ángel Magaña tries to avenge the death of his sister, a girl who commits suicide over gambling debts. In the second, "El pájaro cantor vuelve al hogar", Roberto Escalada is a former inmate who whistles when commits crimes, and returns home where he is expected by his blind mother, who believes he has regenerated.
L.A. Variations sounds more like a cohesive one-movement symphony than a series of "variations". It has primary and secondary themes. Melodies that are briefly introduced early in the peice come to their full expression at the end. Salonen's (b. 1958) music is shimmering and powerful and deep and intelligent. It has the bigness of Bruckner, the sweep of Wagner and the lush, layering complexity of Debussy.... There are many enjoyable harmonies between music and voice in "Five Images After Sappho" which, surprisingly to me, often reminds me of some Sondheim compositions. "Giro", "Mania" and "Gambit" are earlier Salonen works that seem to have been more fully developed later in Wing on Wing and Insomnia. ... Giro has an eerieness that is addictive, a bit like Bartok, but better structured and certainly more concise. Mania is more like a mainstream, concerto second-movement that has a sad and lovely quality. Gambit is a big, modern Salonen engine that constantly strives forward. Something that is always at the heart of his compositions.
This trio of recent works by Salonen (b. 1958) suggests that he's one of the most interesting composers on today's scene. All three share the virtues of his highly individual style, modernistic and accessible. “Foreign Bodies” is music of muscular, extroverted energy; “Wing on Wing” meditates mesmerizingly on the architectural ideas of Frank Gehry, assembling high-tech orchestral-electronic textures that gleam and shimmer like the wings of Disney Hall.
"...two coloratura sopranos join the orchestra sometimes as soloists, sometimes as instruments among others. In the beginning of the piece I pair them with the lowest-sounding woodwind instruments, the contrabassoon and the contrabass clarinet, and create a new kind of hybrid instrument, a sci-fi fantasy of a union between humans and machines."