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CLASSICAL  April 2009

CLASSICAL April 2009

Subject:

The Mighty Finns

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 1 Apr 2009 18:13:39 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (67 lines)

[Read online at http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/n/nxs55773b.php]

Finnish Orchestral Favourites

*  Jean Sibelius:
      - Finlandia, op. 26
      - Valse triste, op. 44/1
*  Leevi Madetoja: Elegy for Strings
*  Oskar Merikanto:
      - Romance
      - Valse lente
*  Heikki Aaltoila: Wedding Waltz of Akseli & Elina
*  Heino Kaski: Prelude in G-flat, op. 7
*  Einojuhani Rautavaara: Fiddlers, op. 1
*  Toivo Kaula: Wedding March, op. 3/2
*  Erkki Melartin: Festive March
*  Aulis Sallinen: Sunrise Serenade, op. 63^
*  Armas Jaernefelt:
      - Prelude for Orchestra
      - Berceuse
*  Uuno Klami: Nocturne (from Sea Pictures)
*  Taneli Kuusisto: Finnish Prayer

Turku Philharmonic Orchestra/Jorma Panula
^Finnish Chamber Orchestra/Okko Kamu
Naxos 8.555773 Total Time: 67:00

Summary for the Busy Executive: Suomi, how I love ya, how I love ya, my
dear old Suomi.

Every once in a while, you have to take a chance.  With the exceptions
of Sibelius, Sallinen, Rautavaara, and Madetoja, I knew none of the
composers on the program.  Naxos makes things easy on my wallet, so
why not try it out?

Most of this stuff I put down as salon music, trifles in A-B-A form.
The more familiar composers offer something more - Sibelius with Finlandia
and Valse triste, Madetoja's Elegy, Rautavaara's spiky op. 1, Fiddlers,
and Sallinen's Sunrise Serenade.  The Sallinen is gorgeous, manages to
avoid all the descriptive cliches of the "sunrise" genre, and ends on a
quiet wow.  Armas Jaernefelt, one of Sibelius's brothers-in-law (Sibelius
wrote the Valse triste for a play by Armas's brother Arvid) was of
Sibelius's generation and a supporter of a Finnish national music.
Consequently, his Prelude and Berceuse took me aback a little. The Prelude
is a kind of Percy Grainger trot and the Berceuse is more than a bit
touched by Grieg.  Both are worked with a jeweler's care. Other surprises
include Kaski's elegant Prelude in Gb, orchestrated from the piano
original by Panula, Klami's hauntingly simple Nocturne, and Kuusisto's
slightly Vaughan-Williams-y Finnish Prayer.

Odd as it may sound, the Sibelius pieces amount to wasted tracks.  The
orchestra sounds as if it has played Finlandia in particular a few too
many times.  They turn in a professional, but pretty flat reading.  You
can do so much better with so many other performances of both this and
the Valse triste.  I harbor a sneaking affection for Sony's Ormandy and
the Philadelphia.  Failing that, I'd go with Barbirolli or Stokowski on
EMI, Colin on RCA, or perhaps Vanska on BIS.  During the other pieces,
Panula and his players seem to wake up.  The program isn't exactly heavy
lifting, and its pleasures are quiet ones.

Steve Schwartz

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