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About this Piece

Orchestration: 2 flutes (2nd = alto flute), 2 oboes (2nd = English horn), 2 clarinets (2nd = bass clarinet), 2 bassoons (2nd = contrabassoon), 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, percussion (marimba, 2 tam-tams, tubular bells, vibraphone), harp, piano, and strings. First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: June 4, 1999, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting (Ojai Festival; U.S. premiere).

Giro (Italian for "round" or "turn") is the 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 constant shifting, yet almost impressionistically luminous harmony.

I was not satisfied with the piece after the first performances -- 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 I 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 15 years’ worth of experience as a conductor and a composer.

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

Notes by Esa-Pekka Salonen.