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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Foreign Bodies (2001)
commissioned by the Finnish Radio Corporation
Work Notes
dedicated to Jukka-Pekka Saraste Yantra - choreography by Wayne McGregor (2010)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
20 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Foreign Bodies (2001)
Foreign Bodies (2001) - programme note

“Foreign Bodies” shares some of the material of my recent piano piece“Mécanisme” (1st movement of “Dichotomie”) and a choral piece “Djupt i rummet” (Deep Within the Chamber). In addition, there is some completely new material, but basically the piece is a synthesis of all the thinking and new ideas I developed during my sabbatical year from conducting in 2000. I revised the score in the spring of 2002, after the first run of performances.

“Foreign Bodies” is scored for a very large orchestra; in fact the largest I have ever used with quadruple woodwinds, six horns, two harps, four percussionists and organ. For fairly obvious reasons, my thinking tends to be orchestral even when writing music for another medium, which makes it very natural to expand ideas in an orchestral context. I’m endlessly fascinated by the complexities of texture, balance, timbre and instrumental gesture; therefore the category “Kapellmeistermusik” has no pejorative meaning to me.

As the title “Foreign Bodies” suggests (it actually suggests lots of things), the music is very physical in expression, almost like an imaginary scène de ballet. The title also refers to the fact that I am less concerned about the purely cerebral aspects of music and more interested in the physical reality of the music, i.e. the sound itself, than before. Also, more than two decades of conducting have helped me to think in a simpler, more direct way than before.

“Foreign Bodies” consists of three movements:
Body Language

The first movement is essentially a study of mechanical motion. The music is often machine-like in its relentless movement. These machines are not watchmaker’s precision instruments but huge and extremely massive things that consume enormous amounts of energy. In the process of Body Language the machines sometimes become other machines through gradual transformation. Sometimes the motion changes suddenly and drastically, but mostly the new machines start growing inside the old one unnoticeably not unlike a virus or another foreign body within a host organism. The first movement ends peacefully however: a hymn-like theme is heard under gently pulsating strings.

The second movement, “Language” is base on a choral song I wrote to a poem by the Swedish poet Ann Jäderlund,“Deep Within The Chamber”.

Rosy pink eye flower
Shoulder skin gentle flower
Gentle eye shoulder skin
The sun enters oh a flower
Yellow pink in islands skin
Red in mouth yellow gentle
Eye red shoulder skin
Deep within the chamber flower

(Translation by Ann Jäderlund)

The words are well hidden in the music, but always present. In this movement I ask double bass players and cellists to de-tune their instruments (scordatura) in order to produce unusual natural harmonics.

The third movement, “Dance” is precisely what the title suggests: a monotonous, shamanistic dance. Even this short movement contains a virus: the persistent triplet figures in the horns cause the entire rhythm to collapse, and the music shifts to a lower gear rather dramatically. At the end I bring back the Ritornello-theme from the first movement in the brass, enforced by the organ.

All three movements are played attacca, without pause.

Foreign Bodies was commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and is dedicated to Jukka-Pekka Saraste, a close friend and a much-admired colleague, who conducted the first performance in Kiel at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in 2001.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Ensemble
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi (sopranos)
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
  • 06 JUN 2018
    Avery Fisher Hall, New York, NY
    New York Philharmonic
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8 June - David Geffen Hall, New York, NY
  • 04 OCT 2017
    Babs Asper Theatre, Ottowa, Canada
    Tero Saarinen Company

    Other Dates:
    5 October - Babs Asper Theatre, Ottowa, Canada
    13 October - Williamstown, Massachusetts, US
    18-22 October - The Joyce Theater, New York, US
    27,28 October - Vancouver Playhouse, Canada
  • 10 AUG 2017
    Southbank Centre, London, UK
    Tero Saarinen Company

    Other Dates:
    18-20 January 2018 - Théâtre National de Chaillot, Paris, France
  • 08 APR 2017
    Yokohama Minatonirai Hall, Japan
    Kanagawa Philharmonic Orchestra
    Kentaro Kawase, conductor
  • 02 OCT 2016
    Bloomington, IN
    Indiana University
    Thomas Wilkins, conductor
  • 24 FEB 2016
    Chicago, IL
    Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25-27 February; 1 March - Chicago, IL
  • 19 FEB 2016
    Los Angeles, CA
    Young Musicians Foundation
  • 19 SEP 2015
    Diavolo | Architecture in Motion
    California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA
    New West Symphony
    Christopher Rountree, conductor

    Other Dates:
    20 September - California State University Northridge, Northridge, CA
  • 19 MAR 2015
    Morphed - choreography by Tero Saarinen
    Mainz, Germany
    Tero Saarinen Company

    Other Dates:
    21 March - Linz, Austria
    31 March - Hannover, Germany
    5 May - St. Étienne, France
    20-23 May - Helsinki, Finland
  • 06 NOV 2014
    Disney Hall, Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    7,9 November - Disney Hall, Los Angeles, CA
  • 24 OCT 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25,26 October - Los Angeles, CA
  • 16 AUG 2014
    Helsinki Festival
    Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish National Opera and Tero Saarinen Company
    Akiko Suwanai (violin); Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 12 APR 2014
    Spokane, WA
    Spokane Symphony
    Eckart Preu, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13 April - Spokane, WA
  • 11 OCT 2013
    Dekelboum Concert Hall, College Park, Maryland
    Maryland University
    James Ross, conductor
  • 24 FEB 2012
    Philharmonie Essen, Germany
    Mahler Chamber Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25 February - Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
    26 February - Köln Philharmonie, Germany
  • 12 MAY 2011
    Wanniek Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic
    Brno Philharmonic Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    13 May - Wanniek Gallery, Brno, Czech Republic
  • 04 MAR 2011
    Brooklyn, NY
    One World Symphony
    Sung Jin Hong, conductor

    Other Dates:
    6 March - Brooklyn, NY
  • 12 FEB 2011
    Presence Festival
    Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, France
    Orchestre Philharmonique du Radio France
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 07 JUL 2010
    Foreign Bodies World Premiere
    Foreign Bodies for Ballet
    Stuttgart, Germany
    Stuttgart Ballet
  • 18 JUN 2008
    Berwaldhallen, Stockholm, Sweden
    Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 13 JUL 2006
    Colorado Music Festival
    Colorado, USA
    Colorado Symphony Orchestra
    Michael Christie, conductor

    Other Dates:
    14 July - Colorado, USA
  • 23 OCT 2004
    Stockholm International Composer Festival
    Stockholm Concert Hall, Stockholm
    Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 22 SEP 2004
    Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 16 APR 2004
    Tampere-Hall, Finland
    Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 12 JUN 2003
    Berlin, Germany
    Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    13,14 June - Berlin, Germany
  • 12 JAN 2003
    Foreign Bodies New York Premiere
    Avery Fisher Hall, New York
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
  • 12 JAN 2003
    A very Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • 08 JAN 2003
    Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor

    Other Dates:
    11 January - The Performing Arts Centre, Purchase, USA
    12 January - Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Centre, New York
  • 16 MAY 2002
    Foreign Bodies Country Premiere
    Los Angeles, California
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    17,19 May - Los Angeles, California
  • 06 MAR 2002
    Musica Nova Festival
    Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor

I wrote the programme note for "Foreign Bodies", so I had been over the score fairly thoroughly. But I was unprepared for the sheer richness of the sound, the exuberance, the joie de vivre. It is a sort of concerto fro orchestra-cum-bacchanale, and my first live encounter with the piece left me fizzing with excitement.
Martin Anderson, classical music,22/12/2001
As a manifest from the deafening rhythmic 'tutti' of the opening, Salonen's concerto is with physical immediacy, the capacity of a huge virtuoso orchestra to stun us with its deftness and prestidigitations. The music is not all decibels. The central section begins in calm and quiet, and its final expressive string pulsations, one of several hints of Sibelius' influence (yet with nothing of homesickness about them), slow down to nothing. Slick rhythm is restored in the succeeding 'Dance', and the heavy metal of the work's start comes back to round it off. Like recent Salonen pieces, this one is very skillfully written. As a composer he gets better.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times,26/08/2001
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