Some footnotes to my recent column. The obvious first choice among electronic simulations of Kaija Saariaho's music is the DVD of her first opera L'Amour de loin. Second choice is the 1993 Ondine recording of her early orchestral masterpieces Du Cristal... and ...à la fumée, both outwardly fearsome works that contain manifold hidden beauties. Each hinges on a dramatic entry of an E-flat-major triad in the brass (listen six minutes into Du Cristal). Also worth exploring is the Sony CD of Graal Théâtre and Château de l'âme. Saariaho's next big piece is the oratorio The Passion of Simone, on the subject of Simone Weil, which will have its debut at Peter Sellars's New Crowned Hope festival in Vienna in November. The new John Adams opera The Flowering Tree will have its premiere at the same event.
There are two recordings of Gérard Grisey's awe-inspiring Les Espaces Acoustiques. I picked up an Accord recording in Paris, and, when I got home, I found that Albany Music had sent along a recent Kairos recording. Both sets are expensive and difficult to find, but either is absolutely worth hearing. At moments you can sense Grisey's admiration for Sibelius, who often conceived his harmonies and textures in terms of natural resonances. Murail, the other founding member of the "spectral" school (as in all such schools, the designation is disdained by most of its practitioners), will be featured prominently at Columbia's IRCAM festival in early May. Works of Joshua Fineberg, Michael Jarrell, Philippe Leroux, and Rand Steiger will also be on display. Fineberg and Julian Anderson wrote excellent accounts of spectralism for the Contemporary Music Review in 2001. Anderson discusses Sibelius's influence on spectralism in the Cambridge Companion to Sibelius.
I had planned to work in a little digression on Saariaho's fellow-Finn Magnus Lindberg, whose career has followed a similar arc. Space did not allow, but I wish to reassert that Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto is a brilliant and beautiful piece that deserves to become a semi-popular classic. It helps that Kari Kriikku plays with blazing force on the Ondine recording; he should be a superstar in his own right. There is an obvious family resemblance between the concerto's main theme and that of Debussy's Rhapsody for clarinet and orchestra, but Lindberg can rightly claim it at his own invention. The interplay between this gracious, gorgeous melody and the roiling apparatus of the twenty-first-century orchestra is joyous to the end.
The new mindset seems to be this: Never mind Schoenberg and Stravinsky, it's all about Debussy and Sibelius.