The winning recording features the world premiere performance of Mirage (2007), an ecstatic 15-minute piece for soprano, cello and orchestra. Star soprano Karita Mattila and cellist Anssi Karttunen, the two dedicatees with whom Saariaho closely collaborated during the composition, perform together with the Orchestre de Paris under Christoph Eschenbach. The live recording also includes Notes on Light, a cello concerto that Saariaho wrote for Anssi Karttunen in 2006, and Orion (2002) for symphony orchestra.
The recorded concert was given on March 13th, 2008 at a sold-out Salle Pleyel in Paris, as the official opening to "100% Finlande en France," a spring festival run in Paris and across France under the auspices of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The performances were recorded by Radio France / France Musique. Since its release by Ondine in September/October 2008, the disc has received praise and accolades throughout the international press, including ‘Editor's Choice' in the November 2008 issue of Gramophone and a Supersonic Award in Pizzicato (December 2008).
This is the eighth time that an Ondine release has been awarded in Cannes. The MIDEM Classical Awards are presented annually at the international music convention MIDEM in Cannes, France, and acknowledge the best classical recordings and artists to have made their mark over the course of the last year. The award jury consists of editors and directors of the most important classical music magazines and radio stations.
Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952) is today one of the world's most significant contemporary composers. In 2008, she was named 'Composer of the Year' by Musical America. In addition, she has received several internationally distinguished awards, including the Grawemeyer Composition Award for her opera L'Amour de loin in 2003. In 1997, she was awarded one of France's highest cultural honours, the title ‘Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres'. The BBC, Ircam, the New York Philharmonic, the Lincoln Center in New York, the Salzburg Music Festival, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and the Finnish National Opera, among others, have commissioned works from Kaija Saariaho. She frequently draws inspiration from extra-musical sources, be they the night sky, the natural environment or literature. Saariaho studied music and fine arts in parallel before taking up composition, the latter at the graphic arts department of the University of Art and Design Helsinki. She studied composition with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy from 1976 to 1981 and continued with Brian Ferneyhough at the Freiburg Music Academy, completing her diploma in 1983.
Mirage (2007) is the musical setting of a short poem by the Mexican shaman and Mazatec healer María Sabina (1896-1985); it adds to a long list of expressive vocal compositions by Saariaho, including the recent oratorio La Passion de Simone (2006), the opera Adriana Mater (2006), or the acclaimed song cycle Quatre instants (2002, ODE 1100-5). Following the U.K. premiere performance of Mirage, The Times raved, "Few singers other than Mattila will be able to hurl the voice into such high ecstasy, bend its tones and express the entire transformation in such racked yet exultant body language. (...) this is a small but important work in Saariaho's increasingly fruitful development." (Hilary Finch, The Times, March 24, 2008).