Pinta ja säe

by Juhani Nuorvala

face and Phrase for Symphony Orchestra, Surface and Phrase

Empty sheet

Juhani Nuorvala

Pinta ja säe

Fennica Gehrman


The Finnish title, Pinta ja säe, can be translated as "Surface and Phrase". My intention was to make use of - and move between - the two kinds of approaches toward musical time suggested by the title, the vertical and the linear. "Vertical music" is based on static or gradually transforming textures ("pinta"), and linear music is based on discursivity and traditional directionality, created by motives and phrases ("säe").

Most immediately noticable in the piece is the centrality of timbre and harmony.

© Juhani Nuorvala, 1992

Pinta ja säe (Surface and Phrase), written in 1990-91, is Nuorvala's first work for full symphony orchestra, though it was preceded by a work for 20-piece chamber orchestra, Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1987), in which the instrumentation is highly orchestral at times. Be that as it may, Pinta ja säe reveals Nuorvala's considerable maturity as an orchestral composer, and it is hardly surprising that the work was awarded a Special Commendation in the Second Vienna Modern Masters Annual Recording Award Competition in 1991.

For an essential description of the work one need look no further than the title itself. The texture Nuorvala has created is for the most part a multicolored, "spectral" surface formed primarily of tiny melodic cells - phrases in fact. The polarisation implied in the title does not come across therefore as an alteration of the two phenomena (except in a couple of clearly delineated places towards the end of the work), but is an expression of the dualistic nature of the work's material as a whole. The character of Pinta ja säe is probably best described as a continual oscillation between a transparent, static surface on the on hand and different degrees of 'pseudo-contrapuntal' argument on the other, formed out of melodic strands.

After a dynamic opening gesture ("phrase") the first half of the piece is dominated by a shimmering textural surface verging on immobility, punctuated at times by weightier stimuli. In the Più mosso passage which follows, a melodic figure awakens and the situation drifts toward the aleatoric, only to subside once again into the prevailing atmosphere of calm, now permeated by the melodic element. Melody resurfaces in a passage leading to the climax in the Allegro assai section. Note repetitions appear within the textural mass and these eventually alternate with the melodic material through the work's most dramatic moments. Another aleatoric section, this time formed of downward arpeggio figures, leads to an enigmatically ambiguous conclusion.

Looked at this light, Pinta ja säe can be viewed as one possible synthesis in that gamut of rhythmically accentuated minimalism and plastically suspended 'spectral music', which has been the domain of Juhani Nuorvala's music to date.

© Jouni Kaipainen, 1994

translated by © Andrew Bentley


3331 4330 02 1, pno, elbas, str [1pic, 1fl+pic, 1ehn, 1cl+bcl, 2tr in C]


Works for Orchestra or Large Ensemble


Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, cond. Bernharður Wilkinson, Ung Nordisk Musik Festival, Reykjavík, 11 September 1992

Commisioned by / dedications

Special Commendation in the Vienna Modern Masters Competition 1991

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