Album: Kaija Saariaho, L'Amour De Loin, Harmonia Mundi

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The Independent Culture

Kaija Saariaho's first opera will surely become one of the emblematic works of the decade, its theme of cross-cultural relationships holding up a mirror to our own atomised, divided times.

The tale of the idealised, long-distance love between the French troubadour Jaufré Rudel and Clémence, Countess of Tripoli (who only meet for the first time as Rudel is on his deathbed), is accompanied by haunting orchestrations which employ subtly jarring dissonances sparingly but effectively to convey emotional turbulence. The combination of a medieval setting with a modernist palette incorporating sprays of low harp notes to evoke awed wonder, and stalking marimba and trumpet to conjure mystery and menace, which sustains the tension of the doomed relationship.

Download this: 'Traversée', 'Non, par notre Seigneur', 'Mer Indigo', 'C'est Vous, C'est Vous'