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Kaija Saariaho

Publisher: Chester Music

Maan varjot (Earth's Shadows) (2013)
Kaija Saariaho’s Maan Varjot was jointly commissioned by Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre National de Lyon, Southbank Centre and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The world premiere took place in Montreal on 29 May 2014, given by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, with Olivier Latry (organ), conducted by Kent Nagano. The French premiere took place during June 2014, given by the Orchestre National de Lyon with Olivier Latry (organ). The UK premiere took place at the Southbank, London on 26 June 2014, given by the Philharmonia Orchestra with Olivier Latry (organ), conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Chester Music Ltd
Soloist(s) and Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes
Solo Instrument(s)

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Programme Note
Kaija Saariaho Maan varjot (Earth's Shadows) (2013)
'Maan varjot' is divided into three movements. The organ and orchestra are side-by-side as two rich and powerful "instruments" with several common factors which make it easy to create connections between them. But more than the common features, I am interested in the aspects which separate the instruments and give them their own particular identity. For example, the orchestra has a great flexibility which comes from the ability to create micro-tonality, glissandos, rich textures with instrumental noises or delicate multi-layered dynamics. The organ, on the other hand, has the ability to produce rich and very precise textures controlled by only one musician, as well as long sustained notes without the constraints of breathing or the length of a bow.

Unlike some other instruments, the organ doesn't need to fight to rise above the orchestra; it can do it any time, effortlessly. But I didn't want to create a duel of decibels, and I don't consider this piece an organ concerto. Rather, it is a work with a prominent solo organ part, some kind of a fruitful and inspiring companionship, in which two strong but civilised personalities can co-exist without having to fight too much for the place in the sun.

The Finnish title 'Maan varjot' (Earth's shadows) was inspired by some lines in Shelley's ode to John Keats:
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;

I chose the title in memory of my father.

My relation to the organ can also explain the use of Finnish language: it was my instrument before I became a full time composition student. But regardless of my intimate relation and affection for it, I haven't written much music for organ. When I came back to it, I returned in my mind to the period when I used to play the organ as a student in Finland. Another important source of inspiration has been Olivier Latry who interprets the organ part.

'Maan varjot' was jointly commissioned by Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre National de Lyon, Southbank Centre and the Philharmonia Orchestra.


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“Mann varjot is a sophisticated example of Saariaho’s work; its shimmering textures and gliding harmonies seem to come from a galaxy far beyond our own, evoking a reel of cinematic images.”
Hannah Nepil, Financial Times,29/06/2014
“True to form, Saariaho avoided the idea of the guest instrument being a concertante soloist, and the relationship between organ and orchestra was complex throughout. The score is filled with her trademark subtleties and complexities, the textures often involving all of or most of the orchestra, but rarely loud.”
Gavin Dixon, Seen and Heard,27/06/2014
“The orchestra’s tonal flexibility and its capacity of multi-layered nuance is set against the ability of the organ to produce rich, precisely defined textures and to sustain them indefinitely.”
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,27/06/2014
“In keeping with that title, there is indeed something cosmic and pure about her soundscapes.”
John Allison, Telegraph,27/06/2014
“Saariaho explores orchestral textures through micro-tonality, glissandos and exotic instrumentation that include marimbas, vibraphones, crotales and cymbals played with bows. Yet the orchestration never sounded cluttered, with organ and orchestra almost interleaved, the organ seeming to initiate an idea or unusual register only for it to be taken up and extended by various orchestral voices.”
Mark Pullinger,,27/06/2014
“Textures are intriguingly and imaginatively varied, the organ, with its almost orchestral resources, playing its part in this and only occasionally dominating proceedings.”
Alan Sanders, The Classical,26/06/2014
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