Joanna Gutowska beautifully performs Kaija Saariaho
This release presents four works for solo cello by Kaija Saariaho. It also includes a fifth, let in on a technicality. Saariaho is a composer who continually explores the nature and texture of sound. And in these works, those explorations range far.
Two compositions for cello and electronics are included. “Petals” was composed in 1988 and focuses on the sound possibilities of the instrument. Saariaho seamlessly combines the acoustic with the electronics. The cello seems to transform into something greater than itself.
“Pres,” written six years later, has a clearer structure. The work has three distinct movements, Here the electronics use real-time processing. This makes them more responsive to the performer, making them an extension of the instrument.
The two acoustic works are “Sept Papillons” for solo cello, and “Spins and Spells” for cello with scordatura. Scordatura means alternate tuning. Saariaho’s scordatura changes the pitches of the open strings on the cello. These create subtly different colorations that she then exploits.
Joanna Gutowska is a fantastically talented performer. Her mastery of this material is superb. Her technique is flawless. And she seems comfortable interacting with the electronics. This is an important addition to Saariaho’s catalog of recorded works.
Oh – that piece that got in on a technicality? It’s Neiges for eight cellos. Although in this case, all eight parts are performed by Gutowska with overdubs. I’m not normally a fan of this type of performance, but here it works. Gutowska manages to make each line sound like it’s interacting with the others. It’s as if eight musicians were indeed performing together. Well done.
Kaija Saariaho: Works for Cello
Joanna Gutowska, cello