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Einar ENGLUND (1916-1999)
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1955) [21.43]
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1974) [23.48]
Epinikia (1947) [7.37]
Matti Raekallio (piano)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Eri Klas
Rec. Tampere Hall, Finland, April 2002
ONDINE ODE 1015-2 [53.28]


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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 Concerto (ODE 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.

Rob Barnett

 

 



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