The Kennedy Center

Neiges (1998) for 8 celli

About the Work

Kaija Saariaho Composer: Kaija Saariaho
© Richard E. Rodda

When Kaija Saariaho, one of the most prominent creative voices of Finland, was Visiting Professor of Composition at Helsinki's Sibelius Academy in 1997-1998, she found inspiration in the natural phenomena of the northern winter for Neiges , a commission from the City of Beauvais for a work for cello octet. ?When I considered the ensemble of eight cellos,? she wrote, ?I first thought of matt and dark textures. I also wanted to go back to some ideas on symmetry. While I was pondering all that, I saw snowflakes falling from the dark sky of the Finnish autumn. Focusing on the snow, the idea of writing variations on it and its various forms became clearer in my mind. Nuages de neige [? Clouds of Snow '] is a uniform and linear texture in which I realize my first impressions of this ensemble. The two Etoiles de neige [? Stars of Snow '] are based on the idea of symmetry and repetition: the first one develops up to a certain point where it doubles back as in a mirror image, the second one consists of eight sections in which the harmonic structure is repeated, as well as a linear gesture that becomes ever more present. Aiguilles de glace [? Needles of Ice '] focuses on different pizzicati and superimposed repeating ostinatos. With Fleurs de neige [? Flowers of Snow '] I sought to recall the texture of those harmonic trills at the end of the first section, although more airy and diversified here.?