Terrestre was commissioned to celebrate the composer’s fiftieth birthday and while the name Terrestre calls to mind earthbound things, the score suggests the physical sensation of taking wing. The first of the two movements, l’Oiseau dansant, describes an aboriginal tale of a bird that teaches a village to dance, while the second movement, l’Oiseau, un satellite infime (infinitesimal) takes flight, diving and soaring. The flutist is called upon to sing as he or she plays, sometimes matching the Flute note, sometimes harmonizing with it. Musicianship of the highest order is required of every member of the ensemble.
Kaija Saariaho is a contemporary Finnish composer living and working in Paris and much influenced by the electronic experimentations of her association of IRCAM, although Terrestre is entirely acoustic in its instrumentation. She gained international renown for her first opera l’Amour du Loin and continues a prolific compositional life with a wide range of international performances.