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Born in Helsinki, Saariaho studied there before leaving for further training at the conservatory in Freiburg with Brian Ferneyhough (from 1981 to 1982) and at the computer studio IRCAM in Paris. There, in a sense, she became a French composer, engaging in the adventure of "spectral" music - music creating and exploring harmonic spectra. Since the late 1980s, though, she has developed a personal style, more intimate, reposed, and warmly expressive, yet still probing - a style that reached a culmination in her first opera, L'amour de loin (Salzburg, 2000), to a libretto by Amin Maalouf. She is currently at work on a second opera with the same librettist, Adriana Mater, to which the present work is related, as she explains in her note:
"Je sens un deuxième cœur is a piece born in the middle of composing my second opera. The title, as well as the names of the five sections, comes directly from the libretto.
"My original idea was to write musical portraits of the four characters in the opera, but when I began reworking the material in the context of chamber music, concentrating on developing the ideas to fit the three instruments of my trio, the piece grew further from the opera.
"Compositionally, I started from concrete, high-profile ideas and advanced toward abstract, purely musical concerns. So, for example, the title of the first section, Je dévoile ma peau, became a metaphor: the musical material introduced was orchestrated to reveal the individual characters of the three instruments and their interrelations.
"The second and fourth parts both start from ideas of physical violence. In the context of this trio the violence has turned into two studies on instrumental energy. Part three is a color study in which the three identities are melded into one complex sound object.
"The last section brings us to the thematic starting point of my opera, again very physical: the two hearts beating in a pregnant woman's body. I am fascinated by the idea of the secret relationship between a mother and an unborn child. Musically, the two heartbeats and their constantly changing rhythmic polyphony have already served as an inspiration in my music; now the connections between the two minds added another layer of communication.… Finally the title became also a metaphor for music making: isn't it with the "other" we want to communicate through our music? As written over the last movement, Doloroso, sempre con amore."
- Author and critic Paul Griffiths served as chief music critic of The Times of London from 1982 to 1992. His notes above are abridged from notes copyright © 2004 The Carnegie Hall Corporation.