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Kaija Saariaho

Publisher: Chester Music

Light and Matter (2014)
This commission was supported by the generosity and vision of the following donors to the Britten Sinfonia’s Musically Gifted campaign: Pauline Adams Anthony Burton Audrey Butler Michael and Margaret Hussey Helen Phillips Kate Waring and four donors who wish to remain anonymous
Chester Music Ltd
Works for 2-6 Players
Sub Category
Piano Trio
Year Composed
12 Minutes

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Programme Note
Kaija Saariaho Light and Matter (2014)
Light and Matter
for violin, cello and piano

I have written many trios for different combinations, but have been hesitant to compose for a traditional piano trio, maybe because of its long and weighty tradition.

When I finally decided to approach this instrumentation, my first musical ideas were of light and rapid nature, and I started to imagine a one movement perpetual motion piece. During the composition, I developed the form into three continuous sections, including more varied tempi and textures.
The starting point for the music is light kinetic energy, which is then developed into more dramatic gestures and rapid exchanges among the three instruments.
The piece advances in spinning motion, moving from the original luminous fabric into more thematic patterns or towards the inertia of slow choral textures, before returning into the original weightlessness and starting a new flickering spin.
As a result, we hear three musical elements - kinetic texture, thematic motives and slowly moving choral material - in constantly changing combinations and orchestrations.

I wrote this piece in New York, while watching from my window the changing light and colors of Morningside Park. Besides providing me with the name for the piece, perhaps that continuous transformation of light on the glinting leaves and the immobile trunks of the solid trees became the inspiration for the musical materials in this piece.

Light and Matter was commissioned by the Aeolian Chamber Players, the Library of Congress, Britten Sinfonia and Norrbotten NEO.

The world premiere took place at the Bowdoin International Festival on July 30th, 2014, in honour of the festival's 50th anniversary, with Renee Jolles, violin, Nicholas Canellakis, cello, and Benjamin Hochman, piano.


Kaija Saariaho’s Light and Matter was commissioned by the Library of Congress, Britten Sinfonia and Norrbotten NEO and co-commissioned by the Aeolian Chamber Players in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Bowdoin International Music Festival. The world premiere took place at the Studzinski Recital Hall, Bowdoin College, Maine USA on 30 July 2014 as part of the Bowdoin International Music Festival, given by Jennifer Koh, violin, Nicholas Canellakis, violoncello and Benjamin Hochman, piano.

It's a naturalistic work that unfolds with a kind of austere purity, building delicate details into a work of huge, elemental power. Even at this small scale, Saariaho’s music inspires a kind of awe — it can be like staring into a vast landscape — and that sense of immensity ran through the entire work: a universe, revealed in a moment of dappled light.
Stephen Brookes, Washington Post,5/24/2015
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