The title Sunrise Serenade is equivocal. Sallinen had just completed his fourth opera, Kullervo, which explores the themes of decision-making, incest and suicide. There have been frequent occasions when Sallinen's trust in his creative gifts has been numbed, as he found himself contemplating the amount of cruelty that man can inflict and the depths of unhappiness that can be reached. But then he will glimpse a chink of light peeping through the darkness, and the beckoning to compose resurfaces.
Notwithstanding its unquestionable melancholy, the haunting, echoing spirit permeating the Sunrise Serenade is healing in its effect. Trumpet two, offstage, states the main motive. Strings and solo piano then establish the work's subdued atmosphere. From the body of the orchestra, trumpet one restates the theme, before its unfolding and overlapping get under way; the plucked strings midstream are a self-quote from Nocturnal Dances of Don Juanquixote (Chamber Music III).
© Ronald Weitzman