Nicolas Altstaedt - Salonen: Cello Concerto & Ravel: Sonata for Violin and Cello - Records International
It is good to welcome this excellent recording of Salonen's mammoth Cello Concerto, an exceedingly fine work and one of the most powerful and engaging in his distinguished output as composer. The first movement begins with a magical, glowing cloud-textured mass of sound (here and elsewhere his use of color and orchestral textures are a wonder to behold), from which the soloist arises like the awakening of consciousness from the void, before the music coalesces into a powerful chord. The interaction between the comet and the cloud continues in an intimate dance of imitative mutual influence, and gradually builds momentum toward a propulsive, pulsating fast section - frequently a feature of Salonen’s compositions - before ending by receding into the cloud. The slow movement begins with an imposing, monumental orchestral introduction, with something of the organic, swelling power of a John Luther Adams naturescape. The cello enters with swooping, arcing lines which create a subtle tapestry of interweaving counterpoint with itself and other solo instruments. The textures become increasingly evanescent, fading away completely and giving way to a chorus of eerie creature-calls and a slow, surging oceanscape which suggest that Salonen, supposedly a sci-fi aficionado (one notable work refers to a story by Stanisław Lem), may be hinting at this genre. The finale opens with a brooding cello cadenza which suddenly accelerates into a propulsive exchange with congas and bongos, given almost co-soloist status in parts of this movement, which now develops into a lively, wild dance sequence. A massive series of swelling tutti like "some kind of gigantic lung" produce a succession of increasingly uninhibited climaxes and a return to a more orgiastic, unrestrained recurrence of the dance material, a series of increasingly frenetic cello solos, and a final evaporative ascent into the stratosphere.