All of the pieces on the 64-minute CD, “From the Grammar of
Dreams,” involve the human voice and the soprano voice
in particular. The nine pieces are essentially chamber works
for voice, involving anywhere from two to seven performers.
Kaija Saariaho (1952 – ) composed these pieces between
1980 and 1997, and although they are definitely in an
avant-garde idiom, they are strikingly beautiful in terms of
clarity and the variety of textures and timbres.
The title work, “From the Grammar of Dreams,” is a five-song
cycle for two sopranos, one in each audio channel. They are often
singing music which is set to different texts by the same poet,
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). Other pieces on this disc, such as
“Il Pleut” (It Is Raining), may be scored for soprano and harp
or baritone, clarinet, mandolin, and guitar, or in the case of
“Calibran’s Dream,” for harp and bass. When five or more
people are involved which occurs during three of these
pieces, the conductor Hannu Lintu is used.
This music is fearlessly composed, as well as stunningly
performed and recorded, a prerequisite for music of this
nature. Soprano Anu Komsi performs on all but one of the
works, and her demonstration of the required vocal
technique for these pieces is impressive. The other singers,
such as baritone Petteri Salomaa, soprano Piia Komsi and
mezzo-soprano Riikka Rantanen are equally impressive,
and are supported by the various musicians of the Avanti!
Chamber Orchestra. This talented chamber group was formed
during 1983, for the express purpose of performing repertoire
that might otherwise be overlooked.
“From the Grammar of Dreams” is a CD of fascinating music
which is superlatively performed. In all probability, this disc is
an overall “reference quality” production. I highly recommend
this CD for listeners like myself, who wish to explore new