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Kaija Saariaho

Publisher: Chester Music

Asteroid 4179: Toutatis (2005)
Commissioned by Berliner Philharmoniker
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
4 Minutes
Programme Note
Kaija Saariaho Asteroid 4179: Toutatis (2005)
I first became interested in Toutatis when reading that it is the asteroid whose orbit passes closest to Earth.

When reading more and then seeing pictures of it, I started to find its unusual shape and complex rotation interesting - different areas of it rotate at different speeds. One consequence of this is that Toutatis does not have a fixed north pole like the Earth; instead, its north pole wanders along a curved path on the surface roughly every 5.4 days. The stars viewed from Toutatis wouldn't repeatedly follow circular paths, but would crisscross the sky, never following the same path twice.

So Toutatis doesn't have anything you could call a 'day'. Its rotation is the result of two different types of motion with periods of 5.4 and 7.3 Earth days that combine in such a way that Toutatis' orientation with respect to the solar system never repeats.

All these peculiarities, and the fact that Toutatis already has had many collisions with other heavenly objects, inspired me to write this small work to complete the project that Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra created around The Planets of Holst.

Kaija Saariaho

Preview the score

  • Ensemble
    Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Berlin Radio Choir
    Sir Simon Rattle
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