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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Helix (2005)
Commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Proms
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Orchestra
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
2005
Duration
9 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Helix (2005)
I decided to compose a celebratory and direct overture-like piece, which would nevertheless be very rigidly structured, and based on essentially one continuous process. The form of Helix can indeed be described as a spiral or a coil; or more academically a curve that lies on a cone and makes a constant angle with the straight lines parallel to the base of the cone.

The process of Helix is basically that of a nine-minute accelerando. The tempo gets faster, but the note values of the phrases become correspondingly longer. Therefore only the material’s relation to the pulse changes, not necessarily the impression of speed itself. Hence the spiral metaphor: the material (which consists essentially of two different phrases) is being pushed through constantly narrowing concentric circles until the music reaches a point where it has to stop as it has nowhere to go.

The musical expression changes quite drastically in the course of these nine minutes: the idyllic, almost pastoral opening phrase for piccolo and contra-bassoon returns much later in the horns and trumpets, fortissimo, surrounded by a very busy tutti orchestra. The closing section shows the material in an almost manic light.

It has been a very inspiring task to write a piece for my friend Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace, to whom Helix is dedicated. These are amazing musicians with no limits to their capacity. I have worked with many of the players over the years around the world. Writing this piece has felt like a more personal undertaking than usual.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen



  • Ensemble
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Soloist(s)
    Yefim Bronfman
    Conductor
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
Performances
Date
Title
  • 15 DEC 2018
    Helix Country Premiere
    Bilkent Concert Hall, Ankara, Turkey
    Bilkent Symphony Orchestra
    Adrien Perrouchon, conductor
  • 25 JAN 2019
    Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
    Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg
    Alexander Shelley, conductor
  • 16 MAY 2019
    Oslo Konserthus, Oslo, Norway
    Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
    Xavier de Maistre, harp ; Lionel Bringuier, conductor

Reviews
"Helix" starts slowly at the wide end of the cone and accelerates as it spirals to the tip. But as the tempo gets faster, Salonen lengthens the phrases to give the feeling of pressure building up as music is pushed through an increasingly small space, like icing forced through a pastry cone. The work, which lasts nine minutes, ends with an orchestra in furious motion getting louder and louder
Mark Swed, LA Times,02/04/2007
...it was good to have a new work from Esa-Pekka Salonen. His Helix plays in virtuosic fashion with the metaphor of the spiral, with illusions of speed and acceleration.
Barry Millington, London Evening Standard,30/08/2005
This was another example of Salonen's recent listener-friendly style, which winds itself in tighter and tighter melodic knots...
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,29/08/2005
... an "overture-like" miniature by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Helix, an intricately written yet lucid exercise in musical acceleration...
Matthew Rye, The Daily Telegraph,29/08/2005
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