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Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)

All'Ouverture (1951) [8.33]
Sea Pictures (1930-32) [22.28]
Kalevala Suite (1943) [31.51]
Cheremissian Fantasy (1931) [11.28]
Violin Concerto (1942) [27.27]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1950) [30.22]
Finnish RSO/Leif Segerstam, rec 1987 (Overture, Sea, Kalevala)
Arto Noras (cello)
Helsinki PO/Jorma Panula (Cheremissian Fantasy) rec. 1973
Ilkka Talvi (violin)
Kouvola City Orchestra/Eero Bister. rec 1983
Juhani Lagerspetz (piano)
Tapiola Sinfonietta/Juhani Lamminmäki, 1990
Meet The Composer series
FINLANDIA 4509-99968-2 [63.17+69.40]


Uuno Klami came from the generations that toiled under the vast sun-sapping shadow of Sibelius. Composers struck out in new directions to assert individuality and their own voice. While people of the estimable stature of Ernest Pingoud and Väinö Raitio tapped into the fresh breezes blowing in from Prokofiev, Klami reached towards the impressionistic models of Ravel and Debussy and the Stravinsky of The Firebird. Later he dabbled in jazzy patterns and Parisian brilliance.

After the murky All'Ouverture, a sort of sepia-draped Karelia, comes the delicate pastel-wash fantasy of the Sea Pictures. Klami loved the sea. This work will almost certainly appeal to anyone who already likes the Ravel of Ma Mère l'Oye, the Nielsen of Pan and Syrinx and the Sibelius of The Oceanides. The Deserted Three-Master has a fine swinging tune and Captain Scrapuchinat has a quiet pummelling note-figure that sounds like the distant heart-beat of a steamer. The suite of six movements ends with the so-called 3 Bf (a reference to a windforce point on the Beaufort scale) which is modestly notorious for its unblushing appropriation of a distinctive melodic cell (and one or two other things) from Ravel's Bolero.

The Kalevala Suite grew very gradually, only emerging fully formed in 1943. It is the freshest of works from a composer having the temerity to venture into territory considered the peculiar property of the Master of Järvenpää. It is a Sibelian piece in which pounding Karelian material meets the deliquescent style of The Firebird and to a lesser degree of The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. The tender Cradle Song of Lemminkäinen is rather too sleepily outlined by Segerstam but the remainder of the works go with a swing and gripping sway. Most impressive is the effervescent Sibelian welling sunrise of The Forging of the Sampo which resolves into a metallic eruptive blasting anvil cannonade.

The recordings appear to be digital with the only exception being the Cheremissian Fantasy.

It really is way past time that Finlandia gave a new lease of life to their recording of Psalmus for chorus and orchestra (FACD369). This work in its monumental writing for chorus takes something from Stravinsky in Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms but a lot more from Sibelius's Kullervo.

I have never regretted my expensive gamble on Klami back in 1979. I was mooching around the London classical record shops (Harold Moores, Direction Dean Street, HMV etc) with my long-suffering wife and we found ourselves, not by chance, in Gramex, off Soho Square. There in the Finnish music racks was a big gatefold Finlandia LP. Finlandia was not a common label in those days. The recording was of the Panula version of the Kalevala Suite and the Cheremissian Fantasy (yes, the very same that launches CD2 of this set). The LP cover was a strange painting of a naked pubescent girl rising like a goddess from the water. The artist was Aksel Gallen-Kallela whose work adorns so many Sibelius CD sleeves (one of the most instantly memorable being the horseback Kullervo on the front of the EMI recording of the Kullervo Symphony (1971, EMI SLS 807(2); Bournemouth SO/Berglund). I forked out my 2.50. That was a lot of money for us in those days. After that I chased down off-air recordings and copies of rare LPs via friends in the US and elsewhere, Walter Wells, Marc Bernier and Mark Lehman.

The vitality of Arto Noras's playing in the Fantasy already triumphantly affirmed by his advocacy for the Sallinen and Kokkonen cello concertos, is much in evidence in the Cheremissian Fantasy. It is based on Cheremis folk tunes. Although the oldest recording here (approaching three decades) it has vibrant immediacy. The Violin Concerto and the Second Piano Concerto stray between ravel and Shostakovich with the Violin Concerto being the slightly more romantic of the two pieces.

This is the set by which Sibelians and others sympathetic to Scandinavian music should be introduced to the sympathetic melodic strengths and imagination of Uuno Klami.

Rob Barnett

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