Kaija Saariaho—a Finnish composer living in Paris, born in 1952—possesses one of the most distinctive, and most contemporary, voices on the classical scene.

Kaija Saariaho—a Finnish composer living in Paris, born in 1952—possesses one of the most distinctive, and most contemporary, voices on the classical scene. And this collection finds her at a peak, as it brims not only with all the textural impressionism of before but with a newly dramatic sensibility. The violin concerto Graal Théâtre is indeed highly theatrical, played to the expressive hilt by Gidon Kremer; the cello concerto Amers alternately chimes and churns; and the luminous orchestral song cycle Château de l'Âme, with the pure-toned Dawn Upshaw, beguiles like little else from Saariaho's pen. In our anti-intellectual times—and from the major label least-disposed to a modern European aesthetic—we should be thankful to have such imaginative music-making. This is undoubtedly the contemporary classical disc of the year.—BB