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Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, December 2019

Finley shows reverence for the texts and the composer. He manages to be self-effacing, though his powerful artistry is clearly present in every line. He knows the star is Saariaho’s sometimes clangorous, sometimes ruminative orchestral wonderland.

Harpist Xavier de Maistre is thoroughly impressive. Ciel d’Hiver (2013) depicts Orion after he was elevated into a constellation in the sky following his death. The subject matter is well suited to Saariaho’s ceaselessly inventive aural imagination. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra sounds wondrous under Hannu Lintu. © 2019 Opera News Read complete review

Limelight, September 2019

Saariaho often combines computer generated electronic music with live performance, but for this collection she relies on the more conventional forces of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra directed with pinpoint accuracy by Hannu Lintu. © 2019 Limelight

Jérémie Bigorie
Classica, September 2019

In a cycle of melodies or in a work with solo harp, Kaija Saariaho makes the orchestra sparkle like a star. © 2019 Classica

BBC Music Magazine, August 2019

Acclaimed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is a true visionary. Her music conjures vast, cosmic soundscapes and is at once monumental yet introspective… Lintu’s agile direction of the excellent Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra balances every detail in Saariaho’s intricate, crystalline scores and the recording quality from Ondine is top-notch too. Not to be missed. © 2019 BBC Music Magazine

Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, July 2019

Ciel d’hiver, a downsized version of the central movement of Saariaho’s Orion (2002) which is patiently, broodingly and richly played by Lintu and the FRSO. This was the composer in good vintage delivering a chilling, slab-like crescendo with a clear focal point, features that happily coexist alongside her mesmeric exploration of colour. © 2019 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

James Manheim, June 2019

The music of composer Kaija Saariaho features beautiful orchestration with fine detail that, whether it has a text or not, lies on the line between the spiritual and an orientation toward the natural world. … This excellent release from conductor Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra could serve as an introduction for those new to Saariaho’s music, for Lintu gets the precise quality that’s necessary to bring the listener into her small but seemingly vast worlds. Listening to these works has something of the quality of entering one of the “Infinity Rooms” constructed by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Sample Ciel d’hiver (Winter Sky, 2013), an arrangement of a movement from a larger work. © 2019 Read complete review

Uwe Krusch
Pizzicato, June 2019

The soloists are excellent: Finley skilfully explores the various moods of the song cycle in order to give each text a different character. With sensitive fingers, De Maistre transforms the microscopically fine colour ramifications of the concerto into perceptible tones. Under the baton of its principal conductor Hannu Lintu the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra provides a fine and supportive sound. © 2019 Pizzicato Read complete review

Records International, June 2019

The composer’s usual exquisite sense of color in the orchestration is present throughout, as it is in the other works here; Ciel d’hiver, adapted from Saariaho’s orchestral triptych Orion, is closer to the organic nature-scapes of her light-infused instrumental compositions. Beginning with a serene but alien and chilling night sky, the music takes an ominous turn in the central section of the piece—perhaps recalling the events that led to the hunter becoming a celestial phenomenon in the first place—before ending in the frozen patterns of the scintillant stars. © 2019 Records International Read complete review

Gary Higginson
MusicWeb International, May 2019

The cycle was written for Gerald Finley, who sang its first performance. This live recording comes from two years later. The songs lie well on his voice, and he captures the essence of each with perfect diction and clear intonation. The orchestral balance is ideal. The texts are included. The composer could have asked for none better than the sympathetic Hannu Lintu to draw out of the Finnish Radio Orchestra every luminous detail of her writing. © 2019 MusicWeb International Read complete review

The Sunday Times, London, May 2019

Ciel d’hiver (2013), the rescored middle movement of Orion, which offers an awed gaze into infinity. © 2019 The Sunday Times, London

Financial Times, May 2019

Canadian baritone Gerald Finley casts a visionary spell over the Finnish composer’s orchestral song cycle. © 2019 Financial Times

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2019

One of the most adventurous and experimental present-day Finish composers, Kaija Saariaho, brings together traditional values shaded by the new colours of atonality. It was within that musical world she had already thought of the sounds she wished to use in the song cycle, True Fire, before she searched for suitable texts. The final impetus came with a commission from three orchestras in the United States, England and France, and was intended for the baritone, Gerald Finley, who gave the first performance in 2015. Having spent some considerable time searching through her favourite writers, the song-cycle—to use an old terminology—is in six movements of very varying length, the words requiring some interpretation by the listener. It is further unusual, in having the voice working in a melodic mode, partnered by an orchestra in an overt modern language. Then in the Fifth movement, Farewell, the sounds may be different, but this is a modern ‘take’ on those farewells from Richard Strauss, Mahler and Britten in his War Requiem, and just as deeply moving. Throughout Finley is a highly convincing soloist, his voice only slightly warmed by vibrato. The score, in total, is little short of thirty minutes and roughly shares the disc with the Harp Concerto, subtitled ‘Trans’. Conceived as a three-movement score, two energized movements surround one of lesser forward momentum. She did, of course, face the problem of scoring one instrument when surrounded by a symphony orchestra, her repost being a much reduced ensemble that can then be allowed full vent to its dynamic potential. The result is a score of the most unusual sonorities derived not from atonality, but from a composer with a vivid musical imagination. I still have niggling doubts that we hear a recorded balance, and not one we could find in the concert hall, though the playing of the French harpist, Xavier De Maistre, is scintilla tingly brilliant. A five star recommended release. © 2019 David’s Review Corner

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