Who'd be a conductor-composer? You just can't win.
Prominent conductors tend to find their compositions caught in the 'reputation
trap'. You know how it goes. This man is a revered conductor so how
can he be ... what right does he have ... to be a composer of any merit.
On the other hand as a conductor you do tend to be able to make opportunities
to perform and record your own music.
Segerstam, the very beaming bearded image of Brahms,
treats us to two of his works each of similar duration and each in one
great swathe of a movement.
The Symphony represents the complete solar eclipse
seen in Finland on 22 July 1990. This is a glittering, blistering, boiling,
silvery chaos of sound with the predominance going to the upper registers.
The whale, bird and dolphin chirrups of 12.00 onwards suggest lessons
imbibed from Rautavaara and Hovhaness. The lines and vertical assimilation
are kept just the right side of excess and Segerstam orchestrates with Bergian
- even Ravelian - discrimination. The music's rhapsodic surging and
rising heaves decked out in the most argent of colours and metallic
clatter. The occasional Beethovenian stomp punctuates the proceedings
as do black Sibelian brass apostrophes (14.03). This is a symphony of
heroic striving close in style to Ned Rorem's heart-generous music Lions.
The Tampere Philharmonic are well under the skin of this piece: modern
music requiring the slightest of resolve to absorb.
Leaving aside a large number of symphonies we can next
sample one of Segerstam's numerous orchestral diary sheets: Thirtieth
Orchestral Diary Sheet. This is more obviously varied than the symphony.
There are clear sections some using the same freepulsativity
(the composer's word) as for the symphony while others wash slowly backward-forward
in the depth-dulled lullaby sway of the ocean. Whale groans, a constant
violin solo narration (such that this could easily pass for a discreet
concerto), swannee whistles and an Abschied of digital alarm
bleeps. The event being waited for was the January deadline the passing
of which marked the start of the Gulf War. Segerstam marries into this
tension the magical expectation of a child's Christmas Eve.
We have the composer's own liner notes on which to
rely and they are in English and French.
Although this is, I think, the one and only Segerstam
disc in the Kontrapunkt catalogue he is also very well served by more
than half a dozen BIS discs which I do not recall receiving reviews.
The playing duration on this disc is rather short but
I found the experience of hearing the disc very satisfying in its own