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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Aulis SALLINEN (b. 1935)
Symphony No. 4 op. 49 (1979) [23:05]
Symphony No. 2 Symphonic Dialogue op. 29 (1972) [16:35]
Horn Concerto Campane ed Arie op. 82 (2002) [21:23]
Mauermusik Op. 7 (1962) [9:48]
Eso Topani (horn)
Martin Orraryd (percussion)
Norrköping SO/Ari Rasilainen
rec. De Geer Hall, Norrkoping, 21-22 Oct 2003, 16-18 Jan 2003; 30-31 Oct 2003. DDD
CPO 999 969-2 [70:54]

 

 

Finnish composer Sallinen benefits from the copious production of CPO - almost as much of an industry dynamo in its release programme as Naxos.

Sallinen's alternation of motivic cells is something of a hallmark. It is both economic in style and engrossingly satisfying for the listener.

This cellular construction and willingness to repeat cells - of which there are many -  is apparent in the Fourth Symphony. The first movement's cells have the determined jaw-set of Prokofiev's Sixth Symphony. This is blended with the horological activity of Shostakovich's Fifteenth. The quiet desolation of the Russian composer is touched on by the lyrical and tense central movement entitled Dona Nobis Pacem. I should mention that Sallinen was born in a village to the north of Leningrad looking on to Lake Ladoga in Karelia which at the time of Sallinen's birth was part of the Soviet Union. The movement's tension is turned to foreboding by a dully hollow side-drum tattoo that plays through its central pages. Bells and percussion play a significant part in Sallinen's music. He reminds us here of Malcolm Arnold's most desolate scores in the finale. A creeping chiming mixes with pecked-out music for the flutes and strings, increasingly stabbing units of notes and a rising to urgent fortissimo topped by antiphonal brass. Mad little birdsong units chug and chatter away. They are carried by woodwind and strings. The rhythmic activity of this movement links to the spasmodic bursts of the first movement. There is the occasional echo of Malcolm Arnold in the haunted music of his symphonies 5 and 7 and Cornish Dances. One can also make out, in the occasional explosions of yawning brass and bells, the sound of Alan Hovhaness in his tumultuously baleful climaxes in the Vishnu symphony.

The Second Symphony is in a single movement. While Perti Pekkanen conducted the Turku premiere of the Fourth Symphony it was Okko Kamu who premiered the Second in Norrköping with the percussionist Rainer Kuisma. Kamu has been a valiant pioneer for Sallinen. It was his Bis LP and later CD that fired the starting pistol for the launching of Sallinen's symphonies 1 and 3 into the world in 1977. Sombre quiet fanfares and drippingly repetitive dewdrop figures can be heard from the orchestra while the percussionist tickles the ear with rhythmic cells of activity. The percussion array includes marimba, vibraphone, crotales, tom-toms, bongos, Chinese temple blocks and gongs, military drum, side drum, suspended cymbal and large tam-tam.   The composer is at pains to emphasise that this is not intended to major on the virtuosity of the writing, on display, rather to convey symphonic weight. I am not convinced by the symphonic aspirations of the piece and wonder if the prominent part for percussion is an obstacle to that grand aim. For me the work lacks the momentum, continuity and concentration of Sallinen's flanking symphonies.

The Horn Concerto is subtitled Bells and Arias. It is classic Sallinen material with its frank lyric qualities, especially in the central movement, completely liberated by the decade's acceptance of melodic material. The horn sings autumnally as well as rasping and abrading in Britten style fanfares. Everything is presented with a lucidity that is unafraid to reveal the work’s wonderfully engaging building blocks.

Finally we come to the work first recorded by a young Paavo Berglund for Decca back in the sixties. It is Mauermusik or Wall Music written in Köln in 1962. It is to the memory of the young East German who was shot to death for attempting to cross the Berlin Wall into the West. The work was premiered in 1964, not by Berglund, but by Ulf Soderblom in Helsinki. Written before Sallinen fully found his own voice and amid a dominant atonal conformity, this is a moving and desolate piece that, in its string writing recalls, the Penderecki of the 1960s. The cellular sequencing is still  there and you can hear the anger and anguish. This is not however the Sallinen we know but a young composer paying his dues to the norms of the time.

Recording and production values are excellent. In fact the annotation is better than usual. It is at the hands of Martin Anderson and defeats CPO's tendency to opt for the congealed academic dissertation style an effect exacerbated by translation into English. The recording quality is open, vital and lively.

This is the third disc in CPO's valuable Sallinen Edition - see previous reviews of Symphonies 1 and 7; 8.

Rob Barnett

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