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Eero HÄMEENNIEMI (b. 1951)
Symphony No. 3 in C (1999) [23:39]
Viola Concerto (2001) [19:33]
Tommi Aalto (viola)
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo (symphony); Hannu Lintu (concerto)
rec. Kulttuuritalo, Helsinki, 8 Nov 1999 (sym); 29-30 Apr 2004 (concerto). DDD
produced in  cooperation with YLE (Finnish Broadcasting Company)
World premiere recordings
ALBA ABCD214 [43:24]
Experience Classicsonline

Here are two single movement Finnish works coming towards the end of their first decade. Neither is testingly lengthy and neither is 'modernistic' in a 1970s sense. Each is monothematic.
The Symphony is pensive and muses over a long-breathed pulse. There is a touch of Pettersson here (12:33) but Sibelius is also a presence especially in woodwind motifs (5:41, 8:57). The epic expressive line is rooted in a deep bass foundation. Towards the end of the first track the flow of the music develops a rhythmic forward impetus yet still in dun colours. The closing pages return to dark musing. The Viola Concerto continues this matte-plumaged musing with elegiac hues breaking through in waves and tendrils – the latter redolent of the instrumental solos in Sibelius 4. The music progresses through what comes across as rhapsodic spontaneity. The final adagio section is moving evocative of a cortege through a cypress-lined avenue lit by a lunar glimmer.
Hämeenniemi has taken a special interest in Indian culture but it has not affected his writing in any obvious way; at least not if you look for the sort of Eastern colouration to be found in the works of Hovhaness and Charpentier.
Another disc worth looking out for - though I have not heard it as yet - is on Ondine: ODE 835-2 (1994) with the Hämeenniemi Violin Concerto and the first two symphonies: Hannele Segerstam (violin), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste. The First Symphony dates from 1983, the Second from 1988 and his Fourth and most recent from 2004. They are works I would very much like to hear.
You might quibble over the short playing time but if you can get over that hump then there are reflective rather than dramatic rewards here. They are clearly borne of a composer's expressive compulsion and integrity.
Rob Barnett


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