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Ensemble Illume
June 4, 2019
Ensemble Illume

Jessica Chang, Viola; Laura Gaynon, Cello; Allegra Chapman, Piano

  • Kaija Saariaho: Je sens un deuxième Coeur
  • Johannes Brahms: Trio in A Minor, Op. 114

Known for their powerful sound and profound unity of ensemble, Ensemble Illume is dedicated to sharing the rich character of the viola, cello, and piano trio with audiences of all ages. With its unconventional instrumentation, Illume’s mission is to nurture and expand the repertoire for the ensemble by identifying rarely-heard work and working with contemporary composers, while also pursuing collaborations with fellow musicians to perform quartets, quintets, and larger chamber ensembles. The ensemble was formed with an inaugural concert in San Francisco in 2018, which featured works by Kaija Saariaho and Johannes Brahms.

The musicians of Ensemble Illume have made their passion for chamber music the core of their varied and busy performing careers, which have included performances on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Walt Disney Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, the New York City Center, the National Theater and Concert Hall of Taiwan, Auditori Teulada-Moraira in Spain, and through the airwaves of American Public Media, WNYC, WHYY, WQXR, WFMT, WAMC, and KALW.

Kaija Saariaho is a prominent member of a group of Finnish artists who are making a worldwide impact. She studied in Helsinki, Fribourg, and Paris.

At IRCAM, Saariaho developed techniques of computer-assisted composition and acquired fluency in working on tape and with live electronics. This experience influenced her approach to writing for orchestra, with its emphasis on the shaping of dense masses of sound in slow transformations. Significantly, her first orchestral piece, Verblendungen (1984), involves a gradual exchange of roles and character between orchestra and tape. And even the titles of her, linked, pair of orchestral works, Du Cristal (1989) and …à la Fumée (1990) suggest her preoccupation with color and texture. Although much of her catalog comprises chamber works, she has turned increasingly to larger forces and broader structures, such as Orion (2004), Laterna Magica (2008), Circle Map (2008).

The detailed notation using harmonics, microtonality, and detailed continuum of sound extending from pure tone to unpitched noise – all features found in one of her most frequently performed works, Graal Théâtre for violin and orchestra (1994). Her catalog also includes Aile du songe (2001), Notes on Light (2006), D’OM LE VRAI SENS (2010), Maan Varjot (2014). In 2015, Gerald Finley and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, premier True Fire for baritone and orchestra.

From later nineties, Saariaho has turned to opera, with outstanding success: L’Amour de Loin (2000), Adrian Mater (2006), Emilie (2010) and the oratorio La Passion de Simone (2006). Her opera Only the Sound Remains was premiered in March 2016 at The Dutch National Opera. Other performances will follow in Paris, Helsinki, Madrid, and Toronto.

Saariaho has claimed the major composing awards: Grawemeyer Award, Wihuri Prize, Nemmers Prize, Sonning Prize, Polar Music Prize. In 2015 she was the judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award.

Kaija Saariaho’s harp concerto Trans was premiered in August 2016 by Xavier de Maistre and The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo at the Suntory Hall, Tokyo.