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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Giro (1982)
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
10 Minutes
Programme Note
Giro (Italian for "round" or "turn") is a result of a very long process. The first version of the piece was written in 1982 for my debut concert with the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in Finland. The title refers to a harmonic model I used, in which seven chords turn around their middle point, producing constantly shifting, yet almost impressionistically luminous harmony.

I was not satisfied with the piece after the first performance - the orchestral textures were too complicated and fussy, and the form was unclear, lacking a coherent shape and a point of culmination. In those days 1982, I was aware of the problems, but did not know how to solve them yet. I decided to withdraw Giro, but also decided not to destroy the score. Fifteen years later, when Anssi Karttunen, then the Artistic Director of the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, asked me to write an opener for my concert at the Orchestra's summer festival, I had the idea of looking at Giro from a new angle, with fifteen year's worth of experience as a conductor and a composer.

I simplified the rhythmical structures (previously tremendously complicated), optimised the instrumental writing, and - perhaps most importantly - reinterpreted the harmony in a almost tonal way. With help of a computer analysis program, I created imaginary fundamental bass notes, which would interpret each chord I used previously within the context of the harmonic series. In other words, every chord got a tonal function. This method allowed me to use full sonority of the symphony orchestra.

I also composed an entirely new section towards the end of the piece, and rearranged the previously existing formal units. The result is a short "Symphonic Poem" in the genre of Debussy's L'après-midi d'un faune or Sibelius' Oceanides. The form is now clear, and the orchestration totally functional. I also managed to preserve some of the original Giro's elusive character, which I still find very attractive.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Ensemble
    LA Philharmonic Orchestra / London Sinfonietta
    Dawn Upshaw, soprano / Anssi Karttunen, cello
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
At its first British performance, Esa-Pekka Salonen's Giro proved to be a finely crafted miniature masterpiece: Salonen's glittering orchestra made up of several spindles on which everything seems to turn before the piece winds down to a tranquil close.
John Allison, The Times,01/09/1999
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