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Salonen: Wing On Wing, Dichotomie

Esa-Pekka Salonen

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Customer Reviews

Salonen is as good a composer as he is a conductor.

Wow. I didn't know that E-P S could compose like that. It sorta reminds me of Bartok. Still. A Finnish conductor playing a Finnish orchestra playing a Finnish composition. I love it.


Esa-Pekka Salonen overcame a prickly Modernist influence with his beautiful 1991 symphonic work, LA Variations, and his music has been beautiful ever since. So far, though, he has peaked with the works in this compilation, which were completed between 2001 and 2004.

Before 2001 and after 2004, Salonen's music takes the prettiest sequences of notes he can summon, then repeats, rotates, and inverts them in regular minimalist fashion. It surprises and entertains on a note-by-note basis, but doesn't make many bold emotional statements. By contrast, you'd be hard-pressed not to catch the comedic chaos that opens the first movement of Foreign Bodies, the slow-boiling moodiness that gives way to kinetic redemption in Wing on Wing, or the epic paranoia that plays out in Insomnia. The latter two pieces in particular are rather violent (despite starting out softly, as the meager iTunes samples show) and took me a few listens to fully appreciate. After that, they stuck to my heart and soul.

At its core, this is old-fashioned, spine-tingling, thoroughly tonal music, and is thus stuck in a very awkward position: It's not calm enough for the casual Tchaikovsky listener, nor is it screechy or complicated enough for the modern-classical elitist. (It's worth noting that Salonen joined the LA Philharmonic partly because of his native Europe's hostile musical climate.) In fact, the satisfying structure and clearly communicated mood swings in each piece suggest that Salonen would make a great film composer, if only he'd been alive early enough to peak in the 1970s. Given today's mundane "thrillers," obtuse "dramas," and concepts of film music as awkwardly paced sonic filler, perhaps he should stay in the concert halls.

With that in mind, Salonen's Wing on Wing is one of the most colorful classical albums to grace this young twenty-first century. If you have a bone in your body that loves Bernard Herrmann, John Adams, John Williams, or Sergei Prokofiev -- to name a few comparable talents -- don't think twice. Buy it.

(Do think twice about buying it from iTunes, though. If you're interested in Salonen's self-titled 2008 compilation and you buy Wing on Wing here, you'll be paying for two copies of Dichotomie, the piano composition that laid the groundwork for Foreign Bodies.)

An amazing album

Salonen's work as a composer is stunning. I especially enjoyed Wing on Wing (of course, anyone who appreciates contrabass clarinet would).


Born: June 30, 1958 in Helsinki, Finland

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Esa-Pekka Salonen emerged as one of the most exciting and fast-rising major conductors of the last two decades of the twentieth century. Although he is primarily known as a conductor, Salonen views composition as...
Full Bio

Top Albums and Songs by Esa-Pekka Salonen

Salonen: Wing On Wing, Dichotomie, Esa-Pekka Salonen
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: Feb 08, 2005

Customer Ratings


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