"Let the Wind Speak" is as much an exploration of Kaija Saariaho’s flute writing as her long-time collaboration with soloist Camilla Hoitenga, who plays everything from piccolo to bass flute, vocalizing and executing multiphonics with organic ease.
The oldest and most widely performed work, Laconisme de l’aile (track 10), which the Finnish composer first presented her in 1982, moves from a short poetry recitation into fitful, rapidly fluctuating lyricism, only to end with a series of rising scales before the sound vanishes into thin air. In Couleurs du Vent, performed on alto flute, Hoitenga seamlessly blends speech with extended techniques.
Works such as these reveal Saariaho’s ability to combine melodic invention with a relentless push toward new technical frontiers. The opening track, Tocar, reorchestrated for flute and harp (Héloîse Dautry), has the feeling of a recitative as the flute sings above rivulets of archaic sound. Faultless audio engineering preserves the fine balance between two instruments more often noted for their timbral contrast.
A similar principle applies to Mirrors, here performed in three different versions together with cellist Anssi Karttunen. Mirrors II draws upon furious melodies and wide range of color, while Mirrors III is more reticent and slow-moving, Karttunen’s trembling and scraping textures adding to the sense of unease.
The album’s centerpiece, Sombre I-III, was commissioned from the chamber ensemble Da Camera of Houston and premiered at the Rothko Chapel in 2013. In keeping with the tone of the painted walls, Saariaho opted for dark colors such as bass flute and baritone (Daniel Belcher) as she set three fragments of Ezra Pound’s last Cantos. Intricate percussion intermingles with hovering, unearthly atmospheres to create a soundscape as spiritually vast as it is intimate. “Do not move/Let the wind speak/that is paradise,” declares the speaker after surmounting a thick instrumental haze in the inner movement. But it may be Hoitenga, and not Belcher, who holds center ground as an insidious stream of bass flute colors the third and final poem. (Rebecca Schmid)