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Kimmo HAKOLA (b. 1958)
Piano Concerto (1969) [56:14]
Sinfonietta (1999) [13:59]
Henri Sigfridsson (piano)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Tampere Hall, Tampere, December 2007. DDD
ONDINE ODE1127-2 [70:27]
Experience Classicsonline

Before playing this disc I had not heard anything by this Finnish composer. Hakola made his breakthrough with his 1986 First String Quartet.
The toweringly dominant work here is the nine movement piano concerto which plays five minutes short of an hour. According to Kimmo Korhonen's liner notes the concerto acts as an “observation terrace” from which can be viewed Hakola's various styles as they have evolved across the years.
The movements of the Piano Concerto are explosive and expostulatory. The Leifs-like Furioso marries dissonance and insistence. The Capricci is jazzy and eruptively discontinuous. It sounds a little like Nono and partakes something of Stravinsky as in his own Capriccio. Forza is an angry scree of rushing sound followed by a ripplingly machinistic toccata. There’s also more skeletal string-dominated fuoco which sounds a little like Bernard Herrmann in nightmare mode. There are jazzy gusts of piano solo and momentary slowings and accelerations. Cadenza is an exercise in rumpled and leonine Lisztian rhetoric. Maestoso is touched with gamelan. The tangle of ideas is endlessly fascinating and the whole thing is recorded with gripping address. Triste finds space for an oboe song in slow unwind and disclosure over a dripping piano pattern. At the end there is a stunningly spare brass fanfare with no drama about it yet it is deeply affecting. Lux is, in Korhonen's apposite words, a pianist's pilgrimage through a hall of mirrors. The whole landscape is crazed and fractured with shards hanging in mid-air, scattered on the floor and above and on either side and in front and behind.
From three years later comes the single movement shiver and shudder of the Sinfonietta. It is for the most part headlong and floods dominantly forward. It recalls the Americana of William Schuman – and what a revolutionary he was. It would play well alongside Schuman's big single movement pieces with drum asserted punctuation, hammered-out brass and rushing strings.
A prize for the domino-themed design of the foldout leaflet. It simultaneously manages stylish and legible. A triumph.
If you would like to explore further then there is more Hakola on Ondine: ODE1063-2 Clarinet Concerto; ODE 960-2 Clarinet Quintet.
The two works heard on the disc under review are given in what seem impressively accurate and clear performances.
Rob Barnett


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