The first movement is a mercurial yet eerie, almost weightless scamper for the soloist; the second like a sobering foretaste of extinction; the third a crazily off-kilter scherzo with about five different metres co-existing; and the fourth a real midlife-crisis soliloquy, all Finnish pessimism.
Richard Morrison, The Times, 10/20/2012
The dazzling virtuosity of the violin part translates into equally flashy writing for the orchestra, and it's apparent that Salonen wrote with a conductor's ear for all the instruments' capabilities, not primarily for the violin above an indifferent accompaniment. Josefowicz's violin weaves in and out of the concerto's shifting, kaleidoscopic textures, appearing and disappearing as one evanescent element of the larger organic whole, but always integrated with the orchestra's activity in all its complexity. Nyx (2010) is an orchestral depiction of the Greek goddess of the night, and Salonen's abilities as a tone poet are fully on display in this 20-minute tour de force. If there is one influence that shines through this darkly brilliant score, it seems to be Sibelius, for Salonen shares much of the master's sensitivity to low timbres and evocative use of effects to create vivid musical images. Deutsche Grammophon has recorded both works with spectacular reproduction, and the richness and depth of the orchestration is easy to appreciate because of the transparent sound.
Blair Sanderson, www.allmusic.com, 9/30/2012
["Nyx"]: The piece is, in fact, dynamic, with constantly surprising shifts in textures and tonalities, and dramatic flair throughout. It bustles, shimmers and blooms into moments of cinematic grandeur, formidable power and occasional violence. And then it coyly, mysteriously disappears . . . The orchestra shines again in this work, particularly for the prominent, eloquently played, sinuous clarinet solo and the deft handling of the exposed, strenuous brass part.
Ronni Reich, Star Ledger (Newark), 9/14/2012
To hear any of Salonen's previous symphonic works (LA Variations, Foreign Bodies, Insomnia) is to encounter an agile, transparent orchestrator. But even by those standards, the Violin Concerto reveals an extraordinary range of rhythm, color and texture . . . the music is solidly his own . . .
Tom Huizenga, NPR (Washington), 10/16/2012
Imagine the motoric energy of John Adams blended with Messiaen's Frenchified harmonic gorgeousness, and you'll have a reasonably accurate picture of Esa-Pekka Salonen's Violin Concerto. Its chromium sheen and turbocharged drive suit Leila Josefowicz perfectly . . . ["Nyx"] sounds as if she's ventured down from Mount Olympus to battle with Conan the Barbarian, or possibly Superman. It's as exciting and fabulously played as the concerto.
Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, 11/3/2012
This disc’s subtitle, Out of Nowhere, is a phrase found at the top of the manuscript of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s 2009 Violin Concerto. Soloist Leila Josefowicz doesn’t have the luxury of an extended tutti introduction. She launches the work with a sequence of exhausting semiquaver flurries, as if we’re suddenly catching the tail end of a weighty musical argument. You’re curious to know what’s been going on. The ensuing four-movement work is an enjoyable listen...
Salonen’s talents as an interpreter of late-romantic and 20th century music allow him to conjure up orchestral colours of sublime, fruity richness. To the extent that you sometimes forget that you’re listening to a violin concerto, so eager are you to reach the next refulgent tutti climax. The concerto’s faster, motoric passages are the most effective; there’s no time to linger. The third movement, Pulse II, is impossible to resist if you don’t take it too seriously, moving with an energy that suggests a noisy dance from a Khachaturian ballet. Josefowicz bids us farewell in the appropriately named Adieu. There are so many moments of jaw-dropping loveliness in the concerto– this would be a fantastic piece to hear live.
Nyx, is an extended orchestral study. Named after the Greek goddess of night, it’s again full of seductive sounds – delicious, sonorous brass chords, string glissandi and a whooping clarinet solo 10 minutes in which seems to glance backwards to 1940s swing. It flows beautifully, never seeming too long for its 20-minute span. Nyx is the sort of piece we’d all love to be able to write, a delirious soundtrack for an unmade film.
Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, 12/8/2012
Frenetic and meditative by turns, the work is divided into four sections, beginning with “Mirage,” in which the free-spirited violin line unfolds in fanciful, virtuosic and increasingly frenetic outbursts, here brilliantly played by Ms. Josefowicz.
The frenzy subsides into the more delicately scored, gentle “Pulse 1,” whose yearning violin solo contrasts with the colorful percussion and bright woodwind underpinnings of the exuberant “Pulse 2.” The work concludes on a melancholy note with the questioning “Adieu.”
The disc also includes Mr. Salonen’s sensual “Nyx,” named after the Greek goddess of night. An alluring tapestry of hazy brass chorales, mysterious wind solos, shimmering textures and otherworldly waves of sound, the work ebbs and flows between languid and tempestuous moods, its subtleties vividly illuminated by the Finnish ensemble.
Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times, 11/23/2012