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The work can also be interpreted as an exploration of womanhood, woman’s earthiness and spirituality, as well as her relations to her lover and to her child. The complete text moves from unrequited love to a celebration of motherhood, to a mother’s spells and prayers for the protection of her child. The music consists of a wide-spinning, elegant soprano part in a kind of polyphonic dialogue with the whispering and spelling female voices as well as of the exquisite colors produced by the orchestra.
Nymphea is also an illuminating example how Saariaho’s sonic ideas regarding deformed, broken cello sounds and sound processing can expand the sounding scale of the conventional string quartet, without completely moving from the tradition. It balances on the fine line between convention and tradition: each instrument in the ensemble plays an individual role as it would in a traditional string quartet, and one can also recognize the typical sonic quality of the string quartet. However, each instrument’s scale of sounds is expanded by new playing techniques and live electronics.
It is an incantation of inner womanly thoughts and feelings that awaken mystical dimensions of womanhood. Château de l’âme lasts only twenty-three minutes yet consists of five songs, the relative lengths of which Saariaho indicated in her composition sketches as 4–5–3–2–6, in respective order (Graph 2). The first three songs are based on ancient Indian Vedic texts. ” The first part, a prologue, is characterized by upward leaps and downward scales sung by the soloist and echoed by the female voices.