Following their recording of his Symphonic Works, cpo now turn to Sallinen’s Chamber Music. The composer’s love of the cello pervades these works which are performed by Arto Noras and Ralf Gothóni, the same artists who premiered the piece in 2005.
Here’s a strange and interesting CD if I’ve ever heard one. It begins with Peter Eötvös’s contemporary piece Levitation, written for two clarinets, accordion, and strings. But don’t break out your polka records for a comparison; this music is more of the style normally described as “contemporary ambient,” with brief shards of musical motifs drifting, interacting, and creating a mood rather than a work with a form that one can grasp. Ironically, I find it much more palatable than some of the contemporary music I’ve reviewed recently, such as Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No. 1 or the piano music of Judith Lang Zaimont. The first section depicts a hurricane scene in which phone boxes and traffic signs float on the violent winds, yet the music is not as violent as the description suggests. Its fragmentary nature, and reliance on a small group of instruments, results in an atonal yet somehow fascinating musical environment.
Kalevi Aho is one of Finland's leading symphonists, having written 11 works in that genre. He studied composition with noted symphonist Einojuhani Rautavaara at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and then later with composer Boris Blacher in Berlin (1971 - 1972). Aho has since lectured at the University of Helsinki and served as a professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. He is the composer-in-residence of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. His earliest ….
Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen's reputation rests on his operas, particularly the first two (The Red Line and The Horseman) which, together with Kokkonen's The Last Temptations, at one stroke put the Finnish National Opera on the world musical map and also offered composers a fruitful territory to explore–one that had not already been covered by Sibelius. Sallinen's orchestral music, on the other hand, is something of a mixed bag. The notes to this excellent new release point out that his embrace of tonality in the 1970s was a radical step for a composer in his position, but it's not surprising given that his music largely disdains traditional counterpoint and lives on coloristic and (above all) harmonic effects.
No one knows quite when tango was established in Finland, but the style has a long history there – still little known to outsiders – and combines rhythmic interest and yearning melody with a distinctively Nordic melancholy. In this ingeniously curated programme, two Finnish tangos from the 1950s and a tango-based work by Finnish classical composer Aulis Sallinen are woven into a bold tapestry of music from the Eastern Baltic seaboard. Longing, sadness, and a heightened sense of nature infuse all of these works, which also reveal intriguing stylistic connections: the rocking accompaniment of Sibelius’ 'Einsames Lied' seems to prefigure the ‘Baltic minimalism’ of Vasks, Pärt and Zita Bružaité, while Olli Mustonen’s 'Toccata' alternates rhythmic verve with a rich vein of reflective memory. These original compositions are complemented by Robert McFall’s own sensitive arrangements, for a core McFall’s lineup of five strings and piano, and the programme culminates in a truly unique version of Sibelius’s famous 'Finlandia' Hymn.