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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Leif SEGERSTAM (b.1944)
Symphony No. 15 Ecliptic Thoughts (1990) [23.32]
Waiting For ...... - Orchestral Diary Sheet No. 30 (1990) [22.12]
Tampere PO/Leif Segerstam (Symphony)
Avanti! Chamber Orchestra/Leif Segerstam (Waiting For ...)
rec YLE 1991/1992
KONTRAPUNKT 32125 [45.50]


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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 right.

Rob Barnett


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