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Seppo POHJOLA (b. 1965)
String Quartet No. 3 (2000) [14:14]
New York New York (2001) [13:04]
Game Over (1996) [19:04]
A Night at the Opera (2002) [6:25]
Liebelei (2001) [11:41]
Minttu Pesu (sop)
Zagros Ensemble/Dmitri Slobodeniouk
rec. Aug-Sept 2002, Kuusankoski Hall, Helsinki. DDD
ALBA ABCD 187 [65:06]

This is the second of two Alba CDs to come my way recently. The Tuukkanen disc presents music that takes us into Madetoja-Wirén territory. Pohjola’s music is contemporary with linkages to Nyman and Shchedrin. Wild pell-mell eerie hunts alternate with the reflective and the discursive. Rhythmic material is precious to Pohjola. An example of the interplay between patterning and melody can be heard at 12.00 onwards in the String Quartet where the composer has clearly been influenced by the Ravel quartet. The work ends in this pattering and whispering rustle.

New York New York (piano quartet) won the Uussävel competition at the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival in 2002. It is a work Pohjola had rewritten when he received the news of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Its searchingly poignant music shares a certain stillness with the Arvo Pärt Cantus, the piano music of Urmis Sisask and Schnittke's Spiegel im Spiegel. The angry Bartókian stony hammering of the central episode provides contrast.

Game Over (fl, cl, perc, pf, vn, va, vc) is from five years previously. The chatter of woodwind and percussion brings to mind the birdcall patterns of Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus mixed with the moving mosaic of L'Enfant et les Sortilèges.

A Night at the Opera (soprano and string quartet) is a strange work in three sections. At first it has the soprano singing warming-up syllables like those in Bliss's Rout and Rhapsody. The piece is about love from besotted to pained to anger in betrayal. If you like Bliss’s The Enchantress perhaps with a more modernistic edge then you will like this.

Liebelei is said, by note writer Osmo Tapio Räihälä, to reflect Pohjola's passion for the cinema. The title is the same as that of the film by Max Ophuls. The music is laid out for wind septet, piano and string quintet. This chatters along, determined and busy, and then relents in some probingly elegiac writing.

Pohjola is of the same family as Erkki Pohjola, founder of the Tapiola Choir. Sakari Oramo, the conductor of the CBSO, is his cousin.

This is an extremely promising first disc.

Rob Barnett

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