Notes on Light

Notes on Light is a cello concerto by the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho. The work was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and was first performed at Symphony Hall, Boston on February 22, 2007, by the cellist Anssi Karttunen and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste.[1]


1 Composition

1.1 Instrumentation

2 Reception
3 References

Notes on Light has a duration of roughly 28 minutes and is composed in five movements:[1]

Translucent, secret
On fire
Heart of Light

The work is scored for solo cello and an orchestra comprising four flutes (3rd and 4th doubling piccolo and alto flute), two oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons (2nd doubling contrabassoon), four horns, timpani, four percussionists, harp, celesta, piano, and strings.[1]
Reviewing a recording of Notes on Light with Saariaho’s Orion, Tim Ashley of The Guardian modestly praised the pieces as “securely done, though both are soft-centred works that throb and thrum appealingly, but lack the underlying toughness of Saariaho’s best music.”[2] David Fanning of Gramophone similarly opined that it “feels just a fraction long for its material”.[3]
Reviewing a performance of Notes on Light for reduced orchestra, Allan Ulrich of the Financial Times received the work more favorably, writing, “…the soloist broods, rejoices, rhapsodises, laments and establishes a formal contour with a pair of recurring intervals. The descriptive movement titles provide a guide through the work. But this is music that appeals as much to the senses as the intellect.”[4] Rebecca Wishnia of the San Francisco Classical Voice said it “develops this orchestral writing to even greater heights” and wrote:

The same restrained touch Saariaho uses in The Tempest Songbook characterizes this work, but because more instruments are involved (in addition to strings, winds, and brass, the 19-person orchestra includes celesta, piano, harp, percussionists, and timpani) the coloristic combinations snowball. The unfolding gesture that closes the third movement and the pulsations of the fourth movement, in particular, are unforgettable. If The Tempest Songbook is too uniform, Notes on Light explodes with contrast; it would take many listens to fully appreciate all that this piece has to offer.[5]


^ a b c Saariaho, Kaija (2006). “Notes on Light”. G. Schirmer Inc. Retrieved January 23, 2