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Kaija Saariaho

Publisher: Chester Music

Nymphéa (1987)
commissioned by the Lincoln Center and Doris & Myron Beigler for the Kronos Quartet
Edition Wilhelm Hansen, Helsinki
Works for 2-6 Players
Year Composed
18 Minutes

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Programme Note
Kaija Saariaho Nymphéa (1987)

In Nymphea (water lily) for a string quartet and electronics, I continue the approach towards string instruments that I used in my earlier works Lichtbogen and Io and also develop musical processes through the use of the computer and my specific computer programs (the subtitle of the piece Jardin secret III describes this, connecting it to a series of similarly named works). With this approach I especially refer to the broadening of vocabulary of the colour or tone of string instruments and the contrast of limpid, delicate textures with violent, shattering masses of sound.
In preparing the musical material of the piece, I have used the computer in several ways. The basis of the entire harmonic structure is provided by complex cello sounds that I have analysed with the computer. The basic material for the rhythmic and melodic transformations are computer-calculated in which the musical motifs gradually convert, recurring again and again. I have used sounds of an original string quartet that are manipulated in the concert situation.
Some images that evolved in my mind while composing: the image of the symmetric structure of a water lily, yielding as it floats on the water, transforming. Different interpretations of the same image in different dimensions; a one-dimensional surface with its colours, shapes, and, on the other hand, different materials that can be sensed, forms, dimensions a white water lily feeding from the underwater mud.

Now Summer is gone
And might never have been.
In the sunshine it's warm,
But there has to be more.

It all came to pass,
All fell into my hands
Like a five-petalled leaf,
But there has to be more.

Nothing evil was lost,
Nothing good was in vain,
All ablaze with clear light
But there has to be more.
Life gathered me up
Safe under it's wing,
My luck always held,
But there has to be more.

Not a leaf was burned up
Not a twig ever snapped
Clean as glass is the day
But there has to be more.

(Translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair)

© Kaija Saariaho

  • Ensemble
    Arditti String Quartet
    Kari Kriikku, clarinet
  • Ensemble
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra / Kronos Quartet
    Petri Alanko, flute / Anssi Karttunen, cello
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Ensemble
    Ensemble Gelber Klang
  • Ensemble
    Cikada Quartet
  • Ensemble
    Meta4 String Quartet
    Anna Laasko (piano), Marko Myohanen (electronics)
    Ondine :
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