Saariaho Maan varjot (Earth's Shadows)

Maan varjot is divided into three movements. The organ and orchestra are side-by-side as two rich and powerful “instruments” with several common factors which make it easy to create connections between them.

But more than the common features, I am interested in the aspects which separate the instruments and give them their own particular identity. For example, the orchestra has a great flexibility which comes from the ability to create micro-tonality, glissandos, rich textures with instrumental noises or delicate multi-layered dynamics. The organ, on the other hand, has the ability to produce rich and very precise textures controlled by only one musician, as well as long sustained notes without the constraints of breathing or the length of a bow.

Unlike some other instruments, the organ doesn’t need to fight to rise above the orchestra; it can do it any time, effortlessly. But I didn’t want to create a duel of decibels, and I don’t consider this piece an organ concerto. Rather, it is a work with a prominent solo organ part, some kind of a fruitful and inspiring companionship, in which two strong but civilised personalities can co-exist without having to fight too much for the place in the sun.

The Finnish title Maan varjot (Earth's shadows) was inspired by some lines in Shelley’s ode to John Keats:

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
I chose the title in memory of my father.

My relation to the organ can also explain the use of Finnish language: it was my instrument before I became a full time composition student. But regardless of my intimate relation and affection for it, I haven't written much music for organ. When I came back to it, I returned in my mind to the period when I used to play the organ as a student in Finland. Another important source of inspiration has been Olivier Latry who interprets the organ part. This piece is dedicated to the memory of Henri Dutilleux.

Maan Varjot was jointly commissioned by Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre National de Lyon, Southbank Centre and the Philharmonia Orchestra. 

Kaija Saariaho

More pieces by Saariaho

Forthcoming Concerts featuring Saariaho's Maan varjot (Earth's Shadows)