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The seven movements/scenes featured in “Maa,” a ballet
by Kaija Saariaho, are the result of a commission
from the Finish National Opera. These scenes have
no separate or unifying plot line. Each movement
utilizes a different array of instruments, with
electronics playing a strong role in the modification
of instrumental and natural sounds. Only the last
movement utilizes the entire coterie of musicians.

Although it’s in an avant-garde idiom, like other
compositions I’ve heard from Saariaho (1952 – ),
this music has its own unique beauty, which
perhaps is based more so upon timbre than
pitch or rhythm. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s
spectacularly recorded by the engineers at the
Ondine label, an essential practice for this type
of music.

The seven movements are labeled, “Journey,”
“Gates,” “?de la terre (Door),” “Forest,” Windows,”
“Fall,” and “Aer (Phoenix).” In the Finnish language,
the word “maa” can be translated to mean “earth,”
“land,” “country,” or perhaps even “world.”
The premiere performance of this work was given in
Helsinki, Finland, during 1991, and I’d recommend it
for those who are adventurous.