Sunday 20 December 2015

Flautist, Camilla Hoitenga and her colleagues bring some beautifully controlled playing to works by Kaija Saariaho, revealing all of this composer’s ear for colour and texture on a new release from Ondine

Born in 1952, Kaija Saariaho’s  is now one of Finland’s finest composers with a long list of fine compositions behind her. Many of her orchestral works are available from Ondine  (ODE 1113-2Q) in a four disc set which is really worthwhile acquiring.

Ondine are not neglecting Saariaho’s chamber and instrumental works with Chamber Works for Strings Volume I appearing in 2013. Now from Ondine comes a new disc featuring the accomplished flautist, Camilla Hoitenga in works for flute and a variety of instruments entitled Let the wind speak.

ODE 1276-2
Camilla Hoitenga is joined on this new release by cellist Anssi Karttunen baritone Daniel Belcher  harpist Heloise Dautry and members of Da Camera Houston , Paul Ellison (double bass), Bridget Kibbey (harp) and Matthew Strauss (percussions).

Tocar (2010) was originally commissioned by the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition as a work for violin and piano. Here it is given in the composer’s version for flute and harp with flautist, Camilla Hoitenga bringing a really lovely melody decorated by little drooping phrases. The harp of Héloïse Dautry joins, adding a subtle rhythmic pulse. Hoitenga has a fine tone right across the range with Dautry adding a fluent, nicely judged contribution as they both move through some fluent faster passages.  There are some fine subtle, gentle moments before the return of the gentle drooping phrases toward the coda. This is a beautiful work that will appeal to many.

Mirrors (1997) for flute and cello was written for a CD Rom Prisma dedicated to Saariaho’s music where the user can build and play his own versions of the piece. On this recording there are three versions the first of which, Mirrors I, is the composer’s original score.  Camilla Hoitenga is joined by cellist, Anssi Karttunen to draw some wonderful textures and timbres as this work slowly opens, this flautist providing some lovely subtleties from the textures aided tremendously by this fine cellist. It is lovely the way the music finds a momentum in little surges or pulses of sound.

Couleurs du vent (1998) for alto flute is an improvisation on material from Cendres for alto flute, cello and piano (1998). It opens as though the wind is rushing through the landscape with Hoitenga bringing occasional speech like sounds through her instrument around which the wind rushes. Soon a lovely theme weaves its way forward, creating a lovely combination of sound. The music progresses through passages that suddenly move quickly forward as well as the most gentle, hushed moments. As the wind sounds return to surround the melody there is the most brilliant playing from Hoitenga and later those lovely drooping phrases appear before the music dies away.

Sombre (2012) for baritone, bass flute, harp, double bass and percussion was written for Da Camera of Houston for performance in the Rothko Chapel, its dark instrumentation corresponding to the paintings in the chapel. Fragments of Ezra Pound’s last Cantos seemed to the composer to suit the piece perfectly.  

With Canto CXVIII the flute quietly rises out of the gentle sound of cymbals, slowly developing and bringing a variety of textures and vocal flute sounds.  Camilla Hoitenga reveals some exquisite textures, sensitively accompanied by percussionist Matthew Strauss. A little rhythmic motif appears before double bassist, Paul Ellison and harpist, Bridget Kibbey enter bringing a deeper sonority and more fine textures. When baritone, Daniel Belcher enters he brings much expression, often complimenting the textures. He occasionally reaches high before whispering the later part of the text as the hushed coda arrives.

Flute and percussion gently open Canto CXX as the double bass brings deep, almost groaning textures. Soon the baritone enters wordlessly weaving around and within the instrumental texture. Saariaho creates some remarkable textures and colours from this strange blend of instruments and voice. Later Belcher adds a more anxious texture, rising in dynamics. These performers bring a wonderfully balanced texture, each adding to the finely conceived sound world.  When the baritone commences the words ‘I have tried to write Paradise…’ harp, flute, double bass and percussion weave around often bringing a sudden rhythmic nature. There is a section for baritone with pizzicato double bass and harp before a longer breathed line ‘Let the Gods forgive what I have made…’ after which the instrumentalists slowly and gently take the music forward to the exquisitely hushed coda.

Flautist Camilla Hoitenga brings some lovely textures, coloured and pointed up by percussion in the opening of Fragment (1966) before slowly and subtly double bass and harp add to the texture and sonority.  Baritone, Daniel Belcher intones a repeated ‘Olga’s acts’ before moving through the text ‘…of beauty to be remembered…’ with varying expression and passion, all the time the instrumentalists winding around him some terrific sounds before the music slowly finds the hushed coda. This is wonderfully nuanced performance full of deep emotion.

With Dolce tormento (2004) for piccolo, Camilla Hoitenga breathes a wind sonority as she also recites the words of a text by Francesco Petrach (1304-1374) before bringing a brilliantly played theme. The text continues to be gently recited around which Hoitenga plays an often soaring melody. She moves through some wonderfully fluent passages bringing a clarity and brilliance. It is impressive how this flautist speaks as she elicits soft breathed phrases from her instrument.

For Mirrors: III (1997) for flute and cello cellist, Anssi Karttunen returns to join Camilla Hoitenga bringing a deep phrase that quickly rises as the flute adds to the texture. Both weave a very fine theme that moves forward in surges, little rhythmic patterns, picking up a pace in more dynamic surges before a gentler coda.

Originally written for bass clarinet and cello, Oi kuu (for a moon) (1990) it is heard here in its version for bass flute and cello.  It was written for and is dedicated to Kari Kriikku and Anssi Karttunen. Flute and cello bring a gently pulsating motif out of which a little flute theme appears. Both Hoitenga and Karttunen generate some spectacularly fine colours and textures as the piece develops. It moves through both rhythmic and melodic moments with this cellist bringing some exquisite sounds around which the flautist adds superb sonorities. Later sudden, fast, light bowed phrases appear with fine flute textures before fading in the coda.

Camilla Hoitenga opens Laconisme de l'aile (1982) with gently and slowly recited text by Saint-John Perse (1887-1975) beautifully expressed with great sensitivity. The flute appears in a rising motif which is then developed with little ‘ticking’ sounds around which a lovely melody flows. There are many fine textures produced with the music rising in dynamics and tempi at times.  Hoitenga provides some beautifully controlled playing, revealing all of Saariaho’s ear for colour and texture. There some amazingly fast textures produced and, later further softly recited text before the flute weaves its way forward through some exceptionally long held phrases achieving some beautifully delicate sounds in the coda that sound almost like an echo.

Flute and cello launch into some fast and furious phrases as Mirrors: II (1997) opens before moving through gentler passages with little vocal phrases woven into the texture. The music finds little surges as it weaves its way to the sudden rapid coda.

Camilla Hoitenga is a first class flautist bringing some remarkable skill and sensitivity to all of these works as do the excellent instrumentalists that join her.

These works that always have a melodic base are occasionally challenging but always very beautiful. Indeed, there is some glorious music here, particularly Tocar and Laconisme de l'aile.  The recordings are excellent. The booklet notes take the form of an interesting interview with Camilla Hoitenga.  Full texts are supplied.

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