Symphony No. 4 Nostalgic (1976) [25.18]
Symphony No. 5 Fennica (1977) [18.45]
The Great Wall of China (1949)
Tampere PO/Eri Klas
rec Tampere 2-3 March 2000
ONDINE ODE 961-2
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Finnish composer, Englund is yet another resolute tonalist. When the great
twelve-tone 'freeze' came from the late 1950s to the early 1970s Englund
laid down his pen. By then there had been two symphonies, closer to Dmitri
than to Jean. In 1972 his hibernation ended with the premiere of his Third
Symphony after which his productivity continued steadily. His style remained
pretty consistent both pre and post 1960s: essentially tonal music given
spice by dissonance.
The Great Wall of China is a surrealist play by Max Frisch. Englund's
incidental music (1949) was for a theatre band of seven. Later arranged for
full orchestra the eight movements are closer to Prokofiev than Shostakovich
with some swell-chested oompah music thrown in. The intermezzo's
'metropolis solitude' jazz is effective at that level without having any
knowledge of any satire intended by the composer (se liner notes). Khachaturian's
film music and The Love for Three Oranges are the best parallels I
can come up with for other influences. The brass writing sometimes recalls
Malcolm Arnold and in the two symphonies the bleaker Arnold is also a transient
The Fourth Symphony is for forces recalling Bartok's Music for Strings,
Percussion and Celesta. The first movement is powerfully driven with
the tensest of writing for strings (Shostakovich 6 and 8 and Sibelius 4).
The Tempus Fugit movement flies along like the presto passages
in Shostakovich's Symphony for Strings punctuated by the sort of explosive
percussion familiar from Waxman's Sinfonietta and Shchedrin's Carmen
ballet. Only in the Finzi-Bach-like Nostalgia does sentimental
respite come. The dancing dark and light ballet music of Prokofiev unflinchingly
enlivens the finale.
The single-movement Fennica symphony is said to be Englund's true
'War Symphony' (Symphony No. 1 carries that title). He had served during
WW2 for four years at the Front and his harrowing war experiences are focused
into this work thirty-five years after the events that gave it birth. Battering
side-drums, barrages of percussion, frozen snowy landscapes, wheezy ghostly
woodwind, mercilessly exciting fanfares (8.19) all stalk through the symphony.
Fennica is dedicated to former President of Finland, J S Paaskivi.
The sound quality throughout is startlingly immediate. Ondine are at the
forefront of Finnish music and their releases are reliably well documented,
recorded and performed. Their reputation continues securely in the hands
of this disc.