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Harri VUORI (b. 1957)
Symphony No. 1 (2003) [37:33]
Symphony No. 2 (2007) [38:24]
Hyvinkää Orchestra/Tuomas Pirilä
rec. 7, 10, 14, 19 March 2006 (1); 28-30 November, 2 December 2007 (2), Hyvinkääsali Hyvinkää, Finland. DDD
first recordings - made in presence of the composer
TOCCATA CLASSICS TOCC 0087 [76:11]

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As a quick and unjustly simplistic overview what we have here are two Finnish symphonies from the 2000s. Vuori's creative palette is profusely stocked with the panoply of 20th century modernism - so get ready for some dissonance … and much else.

It's all thrillingly rich music as the First Symphony proclaims. This is modernism avowing a debt to the discontinuity and fragmentation of the Polish 1960s. Moderation comes in the growling and howling dramatic element and through lyrical tendrils that reach out and entwine the episodic shrapnel. The Lento second movement recalls the magically weighted and bell-tensioned textures of Fridrich Bruk. The finale returns to the glower and wildness of the first movement. I loved the feral nature and distancing of some of the woodwind solos in the finale. Some of the rhythmic cells suggest ritualistic dance from Suomi's remote past.

The Second Symphony was intended by the composer to be as different as possible from the Second. It is in five movements not four. More substantively it is less densely packed with a dazzle of ideas so there is a reduced sense of discontinuity. The neon radiance of the string writing suggests an admiration for Penderecki and 1970s Rautavaara modified by respect for Messiaen. Piano and percussion shudder through these pages but there is more time than in the First to gain a sense of progress rather than the tumultuous flow of the First. The Appassionato penultimate movement has, for the first time, a Sibelian edge with a few Stravinsky moments as well as truly symphonic grandeur at 4.15. It is extremely inventive and is the one track to sample if you want to get an instant handle on the Vuori sound. The Lento closes the work in a shimmer that defies conventional rounded conclusions.

The Second Symphony was premiered on 18 November 2007 by the forces who play it here. It was commissioned by Hyvinkää. The First was premiered by Hannu Lintu conducting the Finnish Radio SO on 1 December 2004.

I hope that we will now be able to hear Vuori's Bass Clarinet Concerto (2001) and Alto Saxophone Concerto (2004) alongside his Sinfonietta Mythic Images (2002).

The Toccata notes are typically stylish and full. The authors are Martin Anderson, Vuori and Pirilä. It's also a mark of Toccata's attention to respectful cultural tradition that there is a luxuriously long silence between the end of the First Symphony and the start of the Second.

All this is, by the way, stunningly recorded and the sound seems literally to reach out of your speakers or headphones.

In summary this is not the easiest of music. It is ritualistic, vividly spangled, unafraid of dissonance, revelling in textures and celebrates through the glisten and shout of percussion. Like all the Toccata releases it represents an adventure in sound.

Rob Barnett

 

 

 

 


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