The Finnish company Ondine have developed a strong
line in Englund recordings. These include Symphonies 1 and 2 (ODE
751-2); Symphonies 3 and 7 (ODE 833-2); Symphony No. 6 and Cello
951-2) and Symphonies 4 and 5 (ODE
961-2). Turning from the symphonies Ondine and two Finnish
artistic foundations (LUSES and ESEK) have delivered the two piano
concertos alongside an early exuberant orchestral score that carried
Englund’s name near and far.
The First Concerto of Englund’s two compact
concertos is splintery bright. In music of brilliance and exuberance
Englund celebrates in music that links with Prokofiev (piano concertos
1 and 2) Bartók (second concerto) and Shostakovich (second).
Other parallels include the more extrovert moments in the John
Ireland concerto. To off-set the headlong brilliance there is
a humane and tender central movement - just as there is with the
Second Concerto. A Lappish joik chant used in his music for the
film The White Reindeer (1952) is woven into the warp and
weft of the piece. The Second Concerto (a Finnish Broadcasting
Company commission) is from is from two decades later. There is
no resort to dodecaphony or serialism. Essentially the same language
is used though there are Aldeburgh parallels this time. Did Englund
ever attend the Aldeburgh Festival I wonder. Certainly I thought
of the Britten piano concerto more than once. I also detected
some grand guignol in the militaristic finale. Raekkalio is superb
throughout, conquering the practical challenges with every appearance
of sang-froid. Epinikia (Hymn of Victory) is tense,
buoyantly jubilant and has a strangely surreptitious melody (4.03)
that seems to sidle in rather than blatantly announce itself.
It is memorably catchy. Epinikia took first prize in the
Finnish Athletics composition competition.
I hope that we will soon hear more from Matti
Raekkalio who in recent years has premiered Ronald Stevenson’s
variations on a theme from Arnold Bax’s Second Symphony.
Ondine remain on-song with another indispensable
addition to the Englund discography.