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Pehr Henrik NORDGREN (1944-2008)
Solemnity-Euphony Op.118 (2002) [14:07]
Pēteris VASKS (b. 1946)
Musica appassionata (2002) [19:08]
Anders ELIASSON (b. 1947)
Sinfonia per archi (2001) [37:09]
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Juha Kangas
rec. Snellman Hall, Kokkola, Finland, 7-10 May 2007
ALBA ABCD245 [70:27]
Experience Classicsonline

As the collective title of this generously filled release makes clear, the three works recorded here were written for the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and Juha Kangas.

The late Pehr Henrik Nordgren had a long association with the orchestra for which he composed many works. This long series of works started with a short arrangement of a Bothnian folk hymn The Whole World Will Lament Op.26b (1968, rev. 1974) and continued with numerous works for strings alone and concertos for soloists and strings. One of the most recent is Solemnity-Euphony Op.118 completed in 2002. The dual title is rather typical of Nordgren since his output includes such works as Rock Score Op.100 (1997), Transe-Choral Op.67 (1985) and Hate-Love Op.71 (1987 - cello and strings). The title also obliquely refers to some earlier works all sharing the title of “Euphony” - there are four of them. From the opening tremolo, the music piles-up to reach a cluster creating an eerie atmosphere. This is brought to a stop and there follows a new section suggesting a rustic dance - fairly characteristic of Nordgren. These elements keep alternating throughout till a brief, fleeting quote from Schumann’s Träumerei brings the work to its assertive conclusion.

Appropriately enough Vasks’ Musica appassionata opens with an impassioned outpouring. Later the music becomes rather more lyrical than impassioned, although it remains tense throughout. Many of Vasks’ fingerprints are to be heard in the course of the piece; and the music alternates the reflective with the lighter and almost dance-like. The music progressively builds-up to a massive climax abruptly cut short and followed by a beautifully ethereal coda.

Anders Eliasson’s music is less well represented than that of Nordgren and Vasks, although it is far from neglected. It is thus quite nice to be able to hear a recent, substantial work. Originally tilted Sinfonia da camera II, the Sinfonia per archi is substantial and in three movements played without a break. This clearly emphasises the arch-like conception of the work unfolding organically from some basic material constantly metamorphosed. The long slow and sometimes tensely lyrical first movement leads straight into a somewhat faster movement, too slow however to be regarded as a real Scherzo. This in turn leads to the final slow movement. Eliasson’s Sinfonia per archi is a superbly crafted, honest and sincere piece of real substance that needs but vastly repays repeated hearings.

Juha Kangas conducts vital readings of these marvellous works that display a remarkable variety thanks to their respective composers’ resourceful and imaginative writing for strings. The orchestra responds with commitment and musicality. The recording is up to Alba’s best even when heard on a standard CD player. This superb release in another feather in this orchestra’s, their conductor’s and Alba’s cap. 

Hubert Culot


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