LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  August 2006

CLASSICAL August 2006

Subject:

Aulis Sallinen

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 20 Aug 2006 05:43:53 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (160 lines)

     Aulis Sallinen

*  Symphony No. 4, op. 49
*  Symphony No. 2, op. 29
*  Horn Concerto, op. 82
*  Mauermusik, op. 7

Esa Tapani (horn);
Martin Orraryd (percussion);
Norrkoping Symphony Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen
CPO 999 969-2 Total time: 70:54

Summary for the Busy Executive: A Finnish Hindemith with a sense of humor.

Contrary to popular belief, the period after about 1910 doesn't suffer
from a lack of great composers, but from a surplus.  Since great is rarer
than very, very good, there are even more very, very good ones.  I suspect
much of this stems from the factory model of conservatory training.  So
many young people go in every year, and so many come out.

Don't ask me to define "great." Not only can I not define it, I can't
even come up with reasonable bases of comparison.  At present, no one
dominates contemporary composition as Beethoven, Brahms, or Wagner
did back in the Nineteenth Century.  George Perle remarked that with
Stravinsky's death, western music was without a great composer for the
first time in 600 years.  Certainly, no one has stood out on the stage
since to that extent.  Furthermore, statements about lasting value mean
very little until the music actually does last, and that's as much about
career as about quality.  When we make statements about greatness, most
of us assume that we praise intrinsic quality rather than dumb luck.
Nevertheless, we discover "unknown" masterpieces all the time, and some
junk has lasted for quite a while.  Even "The Maiden's Prayer" trots out
occasionally.  Consequently, I suppose I mean by "great" what most people
do: the music moves me more than most other music does.  In other words,
it's great to me and, I hope, to others.  It's a necessary part of my
life.  I want it to stick around, so others can be as moved as I am.

The Finn Aulis Sallinen ranks as one of his nation's Grand Old Men of
music, but young Turks like Kaija Saariaho, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Magnus
Lindberg have overshadowed his reputation outside the country.  Of his
own generation, Einojuhani Rautavaara has also eclipsed him.  I have a
spotty acquaintance with Sallinen's music.  The works I've heard have
appeared on the same programs as pieces I actively sought out.  What
I heard hadn't encouraged me to listen to more.  On the other hand, I
willingly admit I probably came across minor pieces.  Many consider opera
Sallinen's main achievement, of which I know none.

Before I heard this CD, Sallinen struck me as a solid craftsman, a writer
who has absorbed certain postwar avant-garde techniques within the context
of pre-war Modernism, very similar to Rautavaara but fundamentally more
conservative.  It takes him a while to become something more than that,
but he does indeed make the leap.  There's a classical objective in
Sallinen, reminiscent of composers like Hindemith and Piston, less of
an Expressionist bent.

Mauermusik (wall-music) comes from the early Sixties and the Cold War.
Inspired by a newspaper account of a young man shot by East German guards
as he tried to cross the Berlin Wall, Sallinen wrote in effect his calling
card, the work which announced him to the attention of the world.  I've
never liked this piece.  It proceeds in fits, like much of the advanced
music of the period, but it lacks both momentum and a truly memorable
idea and doesn't differ significantly from at least fifty other scores
from the period.  I call this kind of work an aural swamp - arrhythmic,
spots of little more than color.  Critic Tim Page dubs the genre
International Beige.

The Symphony No.  2 "Symphonic Dialogue" inhabits a fluid space between
one-movement symphony and concerto, with a prominent part for solo
percussionist.  Sallinen has indicated a distrust of virtuosity "for its
own sake" (a fairly safe position; just once I'd like to hear someone
defend virtuosity for its own sake) and wants the work taken as a symphony.
At any rate, for me it marks a great advance on Mauermusik.  For one
thing, the composer writes more tightly, even elegantly, working through
two basic ideas: a descending scale (and its inverse, a rising scale)
and an arpeggio.  He generates authentic symphonic movement over its
roughly fifteen minutes - the sense that you move from one place to
another through transformation.  The use of rhythm - appropriately enough
in a work featuring percussion - accomplishes much of this momentum.
Furthermore, like many one-movement symphonies, Sallinen's second breaks
down into a four-part classical structure: vigorous, slow, scherzo or
intermezzo, and finale.  Unlike most of these, Sallinen distinguishes
the sections without significantly altering the basic tempo.  The
characters, not the speeds, of these parts differ.  For me, the third
section - the intermezzo, a slow, spectral waltz based on the arpeggio
idea - stands out from the four.  A whiff of symphonic mechanics still
clings to parts of this score, as if the materials demand to be worked
on without connecting to the composer's need to express.

However, the fourth symphony, from seven years later (1979), significantly
improves upon the second in this regard.  It consists of three movements
of psychic distress, very similar in mood to late Shostakovich, but
without borrowing that idiom.  Traditional development gives way almost
entirely to strong, even grotesque juxtapositions, shown at the very
outset, where a vigorous march in brass and percussion gets quickly
interrupted by near-static, drawn-out chords in the strings.  All the
material of the movement appears in the opening measures, but two ideas
dominate - the half-step and a descending triad - which generate, both
by themselves and in combination, most of the ideas.  A jerky Landler -
shades of Mahler!  - takes up a good deal of the movement's meat, and
the whole thing ends inconclusively, like a dropped box of ball bearings
skittering off to all corners of the room.  The slow movement, titled
"Dona nobis pacem," begins much like a Shostakovich recitative - solo
instrument against string pedal - but moves to a long-lined threnody.
The contrast comes with the interruption of a ghostly drummer, and the
mood turns from a lament to a wraithlike march.  Again, the movement
ends inconclusively, as lament and march intertwine.  After a while, you
realize that all the material derives from the two main ideas of the
first movement.  The finale, filled with tuned percussion, comes without
a break, growing from the low chords that end the slow movement.  Again,
it derives from the first-movement opening, whose connections become
clearer as the finale progresses.  From the swirl of themes, one idea
(which Martin Anderson's excellent liner notes describe as an "ostinato")
dominates, a variation of the descending triad from the first movement.
The idea proliferates manically, but a chorale theme (a cross between a
Sibelian symphonic chorale and "Bess, You is My Woman Now") opposes it,
reining it in.  The ostinato, however reduced to an ember, reasserts
itself and threatens to tear the movement to pieces and toss the bits
to the four winds.  The chorale comes back, this time incorporating the
ostinato as both a counterpoint and an extension.  One begins to realize
that the first is the structural flip side of the second.  Ideas from
the previous movements gradually make themselves felt, including a
brilliant passage where the first-movement march rhythm beats against
the near-static chords, thus encapsulating the modus operandi of contrast
in the symphony.  A fabulous work.

I can say the same for the two-movement horn concerto of 2002, "Campane
ed Arie" (bells and arias).  The subtitle puns on a standard instruction
to horn players, "campana in aria" (bell in the air, or bell up).  Beyond
that, the sound of bells - celesta, marimba, tubular chimes, glockenspiel,
and so on - strongly colors the orchestra.  The first movement grows out
of a rising, slightly chromatic line with, at first, answering fanfares
from the horn.  The piccolo comes up with a twisted-taffy version of
those calls and introduces a phantasmagoric element into the music -
like ghosties and goblins flitting across the night sky.  This is nocturnal
music par excellence, where deep stillness plays off against the slightly
chilly scurrying of the unknown and unseen.  The horn answers the spooks
with increasing force until it breaks into a full-throated cadenza.
Afterwards, it grows increasingly lyrical and the rising scale in the
orchestra becomes more diatonic until a kind of peace (more like one
holding one's breath, waiting for something) is reached.  The second
movement starts out as a thrill ride, again generated by a rising scalar
line, this time in conventional minor.  The music builds into a hectic
samba - one doesn't normally associate sambas with Finland - before it
runs out of gas and settles into a long, lyrical passage, another aria
for the horn.  In time, the music becomes more and more agitated, with
much double-tonguing in the brass, and the opening material returns, but
more stiffly, without that samba beat.  The tempo increases, and the
piece explodes to a series of false endings of relative stasis, only to
build up again and fade.  The piece ends with the quiet tolling of bells.

 From the way the liner notes talk, this concerto doesn't seem to get
much play outside Finland, but it certainly has a greater potential
audience than Finns alone.  Horn players are always looking for new,
worthy work, and this piece fits the bill admirably.  All three scores
receive very good performances - very good without crossing over into
stunning - although the horn soloist, Esa Tapani, is definitely world-class,
handling the difficulties with panache.  The CPO engineers provide
excellent sound.

Steve Schwartz

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager