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Biographical Notes


Osmo Tapio RÄIHÄLÄ (b. 1964)
Rampant for two violins (1997) [6:18]
(Reeta Maalismaa and Maria Puusaari, violin)
Damballa for flute, oboe, clarinet and violin (2000) [7:43]
(Lauri Toivio, flute, Riikka Talvitie, oboe, Kimmo Leppälä, clarinet, Maria Puusaari, violin)
String Quartet nr. 2 Jobimao (2000) [9:24]
Uusinta String Quartet
King of Lycksele for solo cello (2002) [3:54]
(Markus Hohti, cello)
Stoa Trilogy (Ataraxy; Apathy; Autarchy) for violin and piano (2002) [10:49]
(Maria Puusaari, violin, Emil Holmström, piano)
Rock Painting (Värikallio) for chamber orchestra (flute oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano, and violin, viola, cello, double bass)
(Eva Ollikainen, conductor, Lauri Toivio, flute, Anni Haapaniemi, oboe, Marko Portin, clarinet, Janne Pulkkinen, bassoon, Reeta Rossi, horn, Emil Holmström, piano, Maria Puusaari and Mirka Malmi, violin, Max Savikangas, viola, Markus Hohti, cello, Henrika Fagerlund, double bass)
rec. Helsinki, Espoo, Finland, 2005? DDD

Finnish composer Räihälä was born in Suomussalmi, Northern Finland. His background is in punk rock and later in the rhythm & blues influenced heavy rock of the group The Highland Queen. In 1985 he abandoned rock and then studied privately in Stockholm and Turku, the latter the scene of orchestral and chamber premieres. Predominantly self-taught he studied composition with Harri Vuori.

Rampant is one of his Everton-inspired compositions. The title comes from the BBC commentator John Motson’s enthusiastic shout "It’s a rampant Everton now!" during a game against Watford in 1985. This is a fast and furious witch-flight of a piece with an enthusiastic embrace around buzzing Webernian techniques.

Damballa has a similar Webernian texture with kaleidoscopic mosaic in speeding movement. The woodwind provide a distinctly lyrical voice though plagued with anxiety. Once again avant-garde requirements are made of the players with coarse didjeridu sounds being wrung from the wind singers.

String Quartet nr. 2, subtitled Jobimao, owes its title to Brazilian bossa nova man Antonio Carlos Jobim. The piece starts in Räihälä’s accustomed buzzing Webernian tension, regretful melancholy off-set by chugging Stravinskian figures and here further moderated by bossa nova rhythms.

King of Lycksele is what the composer describes as a brief ride for solo cello, written for Markus Hohti in late 2002. It is lively, modern-sounding yet not ‘scary’. The first performance was heard in April 2003 in Pieksämäki, Finland.

The Stoa Trilogy was written to seek ‘the spirit of the ancient Stoic school and its perception of how a man can achieve the balance with the world through three moods.’ Ataraxy ‘seeks a total peace of mind where no outward stimulus can affect a human being.’ Both this and Apathy are characterised by moderate dissonance and Sisask-like twinkling figures from the piano which also seems to echo Holst’s Betelgeuse. Autarchy peels away from self-absorption and is more propulsive.

Emperor of Vuokki is a sister work for King of Lycksele. The work was written in a single day and revised after comments from violinist Maria Puusaari. The title is another inside-joke - rather like King of Lycksele and Räihälä is not letting on. It runs the gamut of avant-garderie. I found it rather arid.

Rock Painting for chamber ensemble marks a clear change in style - and this is admitted by the composer. The title has a double meaning: pointing to rock music but also relating to the rock painting in Hossa, Suomussalmi portraying men and moose. It was done around 2000-2500 BC and was rediscovered in 1977. The three solos are improvised by flautist Lauri Toivio, violist Max Savikangas and clarinettist Marko Portin: ‘I let them express their own style, and was glad to notice that Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa or Benny Goodman have not passed these gentlemen without leaving some ‘rock paintings’ on their souls either.’ In fact the bejewelled glittering and swaying writing recalls a mélange of Martinů, Weill, Villa-Lobos and George Crumb alongside the rock influences. It’s attractive yet provocative music (try 14:50 - almost Malcolm Arnold!) which I can see going down well with audiences with stiffer sinews on the South Bank as well as in jazz clubs and Celtic Connections festivals. Wynton Marsalis should take a good listen to this music as should the more enterprising jazz club scouts and festival organisers.

Räihälä is well worth watching and not as a final shudder of the avant-garde outliers either. This disc makes an excellent starting place for exploration and I suspect that Uusinta’s other CDs will be just as provocative: Uusinta at the edge of time UUCD101 and Max Savikangas Extraterrestrial UUCD102.

Rob Barnett



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