As this is written, Esa-Pekka Salonen has been director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 13 seasons. Recognition of the unqualified success of his partnership with the Philharmonic was immediate, but symphony audiences in Los Angeles were slow to develop the same warm and fuzzy feeling for Salonen's work as a composer. It's not that they didn't want to like Salonen's music, but admittedly his arch-serial efforts composed back in Finland didn't exactly send pulses racing, as did his performances of Stravinsky and Bernard Herrmann. The heritage of the film music community is at the very center of musical life in the "city of angels," and by incorporating some elements of its essence, Salonen's new compositions now have qualities his earliest works never did -- emotion, expressiveness, and a responsiveness to his environment. Although the three works featured on this maiden voyage associating Salonen with Deutsche Grammophon -- Foreign Bodies, Wing on Wing, and Insomnia -- are performed here by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, they incorporate gestures that the Los Angeles Philharmonic has always done well -- the sweep, grandeur, and color of orchestral music such as Respighi, Ravel, and early Stravinsky. Yet Salonen has not "sold out" his old style so much as matured and become more inclusive of his surroundings. There are hints of rock roll bass lines in Foreign Bodies, and Wing on Wing, featuring the amazing wordless soprano singing of Anu Komsi and Piia Komsi, is reminiscent of George Antheil's score for the 1953 horror film Dementia -- the high, female voices wailing over an unstable riot of orchestral color. The blurb on the back of the disc makes use of an unfortunate choice of words -- "Esa-Pekka Salonen hits the nerve of his time." Many listeners will be happy if he doesn't hit the nerve in their root canal, as might be expected given prevailing attitudes about contemporary music in general. Wing on Wing demonstrates that Salonen's music has found room for compromise, and that this has been good for it, as it is growing and maturing, rather than stagnating. Perhaps the blurb might have said that Salonen has his finger on the pulse of his city, and that the prognosis is good -- it definitely makes for interesting and fulfilling listening. Uncle Dave Lewis , Rovi
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