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CD: Alba

 

Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Kymi - Scenes
Violin Concerto op. 32 (1943) [28:36]
Suite for String Orchestra (1937) [12:24]
Sérénades joyeuses (1933) [6:11]
Scenes from a Puppet Show (1931) [7:16]
Pekka Kauppinen (violin)
Kymi Sinfonietta/Dmitri Slobodeniouk
rec. Kuusankoski Hall, 9-13 December 2005.
ALBA ABCD235 [54:49]

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK

Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Rhapsodie
Intermezzo for cor anglais and small orchestra (1937) [3:55]
Incidental music to the play The Prodigal Son (arr. Eero Kesti) (1945) [18:05]
Symphonie enfantine (Lapsisinfonia) op.17 (1928-29) [16:28]
Eero KESTI (b. 1959)
Fantasia for Orchestra "Spring" (1995) [9:05]
Toivo KUULA (1883-1918)
South Ostrobothnian Folk Songs II
(1909-10) (arr. Nils-Eric Fougstedt) [13:10]
Jorma Hynninen (baritone); Timo Karjalainen (cor anglais)
Kymi Sinfonietta/Juha Nikkola
rec. Kuusankoski Hall, 23 May 2001, 17-19 September 2001, 15 March 2002.
ALBA ABCD171 [61:06]

alternatively
CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Valoa
Robert KAJANUS (1856-1933)
Suite for Strings in F [15:32]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Mourning Music
(1936) [6:38]
Ilkka KUUSISTO (b. 1933)
Divertimento
[11:59]
Pasi PIISPANEN (b. 1966)
The Broken Vase
, The Forest Grave, Dog of the Night, Light [13:56]
Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Suite for String Orchestra (1937) [11:23]
Ulla Soinne (viola); Reijo Mustakallio (baritone)
Tapiola Youth Strings/Heikki Pekkarinen
rec. Nya Paviljongen, 26-27 May, 18-19 December 2005; Espoonlahti Church, 20 October 2005
ALBA ABCD242 [60:04]
Experience Classicsonline


Whether he knew it or not Uuno Klami toiled under the reputation of Sibelius. Among Finnish composers he was hardly alone in this. The benevolent yet oxygen-sapping shadow from Järvenpää was cast not only over Sibelius’s own generation but over succeeding generations including those born after Sibelius’s death in 1958. The compulsion to create musical works however can be strong and there is much to be enjoyed and discovered as well as assessed among those unconquered by its sway.

Klami drank deep draughts of the Finnish nationalist essence but later mixed it with the voices of Gallic impressionism and Stravinskian energy from his studies in Paris. His serious side is represented by the wanly impressionistic Sea Pictures (1930-32), the vitally potent and imaginative Kalevala Suite (1943), the smokingly volatile Cheremissian Fantasy for cello and orchestra (1931), the romantically determined Violin Concerto (1942) and the bafflingly neglected Psalmus (1936) for soprano, baritone, choir and orchestra.

He is not neglected on commercial recordings. In the age of the LP Fennica, Finnlevy and Finlandia paid him attention. However as with other neglected composers the entry of the CD onto the world stage in 1983 was the cue for a substantial jolt of new recording ventures. Klami benefited, as did many others, with reissues and fresh recording projects. The Warner-Finlandia combine gave us an extremely valuable Klami compendium (deleted and now fetching between £30 and £40 on Amazon) in their Meet the Composer series as well as the world premiere recording of Psalmus on FACD369 - the latter remaining deleted for years for reasons beyond understanding. Ondine, Bis and Naxos (listed below) have also waded in to provide coverage of the vast bulk of the orchestral music.

Alba stand in the shadow of Ondine and Warner-Finlandia. Alba’s catalogue however holds its own peculiar treasures including the complete Madetoja orchestral works, including the grand ballet Okon Fuoko and the complete piano solos. Let alone music by Tiensuu, Tuukkanen, Hämeenniemi, Kreek, Kokkonen and Merilainen. Their complete Tubin symphonies are as conducted by Arvo Volmer who through ABC Classics is making his mark on the international scene. A full index of reviews of their recordings can be found here. The present three discs have until now passed us by.

The Kymi - Scenes disc is an all-Klami affair. Of the three it’s the shortest in playing time but then all three are within hailing distance of an hour. The Violin Concerto dates from 1943 but was lost and the work rewritten in 1954. Although the original score was found in 1957 the rewrite is what we hear from Pekka Kauppinen. It’s a lovely work which will appeal to you if you enjoy the first concertos of Szymanowski and Prokofiev. You will also need to be able to live with pages that in their contours inevitably recall the Sibelius concerto and the idyllic sense of Slavonic nocturnals and perfumed air. The finale is more urgent, zany and even manic - a sort of moto perpetuo without quite fitting the definition. It ends on a very cleever downbeat pizzicato. The concerto lasts for more than half the duration of the CD. I recall hearing Jennifer Koh’s version on Bis some years ago and my recollection is that Koh’s tone is more full-lipped; I would need to get hold of a copy to check. Kauppinen is in any event a most touching and virtuosic guide. The Suite for String Orchestra (1937) is the same undemanding ‘pleasantrie’ that appears on Alba ABCD 242 recalling Rakastava at one moment and Sibelius’s more intense works the next - for example in the stormy flighted final Allegro vivo. The pellucidly scored Sérénades joyeuses is unmistakably influenced by neo-classical Stravinsky and the absurdist fantasies of Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges. As ever with Klami the four miniature movements are wonderfully concise and inspiration is not overstretched. Use of sharply etched percussion, hieratic trombone, edgily rhythmic cells and woodwind coloration make this a very distinctive mix. Finally we get the five movements of Scenes from a Puppet Show have the sharply defined horizon of de Falla’s Harpsichord Concerto softened by the lacy-fragile and slightly melancholy sound of Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye. Even the titles hint at the connection: The Chinese Merchant and Prinsessa Ruusunen - La belle au bois dormant. The final Brave General is a cheeky-cheery impudent fellow whose woodwind solo march suggest a jaunty CO of the bedroom playbox. 

Rhapsodie
starts with the brevity that is the Intermezzo. It’s a chucklingly industrious folk-accented movement for cor anglais and orchestra with many modest limpid Sibelian references coloured by a touch of Rimsky. The score is laid out on an egalitarian basis with many other solo woodwind voices joining the cor anglais. The booklet notes by Hannele Dolk tell us that it is based on the first movement of his Psalmus written in 1936. In 1945 he wrote the incidental music for the Marin Drzic play, The Prodigal Son, at the Finnish National Theatre. It’s a light sequence as befits a comedy. The Prelude to Act I is a busy little march lit by racing and glinting orchestral piano entwined with chortling woodwind. It sounds rather like a Nordic rumba as if something from 1920s Milhaud or Ibert. Again this would be ideal Classic FM material. The great baritone Hynninen (b. 1941) sings the two Madrigali and one Serenaadi which are grouped around the three orchestral preludes. These are light and winning serenades - the Nordic equivalent of Neapolitan romances with a typical dash of sun, beauty, sadness or regret. That orchestral piano again makes its presence felt in the warmly pensive Prelude to Act II. It cleverly uses the material of the first Prelude but at a honey-slow pace. The final Prelude is more urgent with that ringing orchestral piano and soloistic woodwind pressing forward aided by chugging string ostinatos.

Having written two ambitious symphonies - recorded on Ondine - Klami wanted in 1928-29 to write something in a simpler less heated idiom. Writing in Vienna and dedicating the work to Toivo Haapanen he produced the Symphonie Enfantine - also recorded on Bis. In its feel it’s more of a fantasy suite than a symphony. The music has a gentle oneiric lilt yet for all the aspiration to simplicity a complexity that mixes birdsong, Ravel-like warmth and vernal magic irradiates these pages until we get to the wild and woolly finale which steps out from the pages of Firebird Stravinsky. Mix in some urgent Sibelian motor rhythms, Iberian hints and a Viennese dream waltz and there you have it. Eero Kesti is viola principal of the Kymi Sinfonietta. His Spring is a contemplative fantasy for orchestra which rises to a slow majesty at 4:00. Completely tonal - as with all the works here - you will certainly enjoy this if you enjoy the even more urgent Bridge’s Enter Spring and Hadley’s The Trees so High. Kuula was killed in a shooting accident in 1918. His inspiration for composition was Selim Palmgren. Like his teacher, Sibelius, Kuula spent time in Italy but then extended his studies in Leipzig and Paris. Songs figure large in his output possible because his wife was a singer. These seven songs are quite varied from the lively Tuoltapa (tr. 13), to the troika-lively Hai pois (tr. 17) to the slow blooming tragedy of Haultalan Heikki (tr. 14) to the stormy Tuuli se taivutti (tr. 15) and the final auburn-toned romance of Luulahan (tr. 18). The orchestral arrangements for Finnish Radio are by the conductor-composer Nils-Erik Fougstedt (1910-1961) a stalwart of the national radio station YLE, a composer in his own right (complete songs for mixed choir a cappella on BIS-CD-721) and a major figure on the Scandinavian musical scene. In 1957 he conducted the premiere of Atterburg’s Visionaria symphony (No.9) in Helsinki and recorded for Fennica Vaino Raitio’s Scherzo: Felis Domestica and Klami’s Rural Shoemakers overture. His own orchestral works - surely worth recording? - include Angoscia (1954), the Trittico sinfonico (1958) (seemingly the first twelve-tone Finnish orchestral work) and Aurea dicta (1959). These Kuula-Fougstedt songs bring to an end a delightful light-ish candy assortment. There’s not a touch of sourness anywhere yet the sugar content is well judged and will not rot your musical appreciation. The insert booklet gives the sung Finnish words and English translations. 

Valoa
offers only one work by Klami. A handful of the orchestral works of Robert Kajanus have had their own CD on BIS-CD-1223 (see review). The collection included his Aino symphony which has also appeared in a different performance on Ondine. Conductor-composer Kajanus’s Suite for Strings is a pleasant sentimental trippingly light confection - a little like Elgar with only the lightest suggestion of Northern climes. The finale has a trotting freedom which sounds a little like Sibelius’s Karelia Suite. The Hindemith Mourning Music is better known under its German title: Trauermusik. How it was written at extraordinarily short notice for the BBC to mark the death of King George V in 1936 is well enough known. Ulla Soinne plays with a captivatingly oleaginous tone which leans away from the instrument’s traditional slender hoarseness. It would be good to hear her in the even finer Schwanendreher Concerto. I was most impressed. In fact this is the finest recording I have ever heard of Trauermusik. Hindemithians must not overlook this. Ilkka Kuusisto studied organ at the Sibelius Academy in his birth city of Helsinki. There he also worked with composition professors Aare Merikanto and Nils-Erik Fougstedt. There were to be further studies in the USA, Germany and Austria. He became conductor at the Helsinki City Theatre in the 1960s and 1970s and did a three year stint as head of the Klemetti Institute from 1969. He has written operas and musicals: Muumiooppera (1974); Mieben kylkiluu (1977); Sota valosta (1980); Jääikäri Stabl (1981) and Pierrot tai yon salaisuudet (1991). The musicals include Lumikuningatar (1979) and Robin Hood (1987). There were a few chamber works but usually for unconventional combinations of instruments. His vocal works numbered Three Chinese Songs for Soprano, Flute, and Piano (1956), Daybreak - a cantata for soli, Youth Chorus, and Organ (1957) and Crucifixus for Baritone and String Quartet (1959). Kuusisto’s Divertimento is a lovely gentle subtle piece for strings: nostalgic, clever, catchy and finely emotional with touches of Frank Bridge, Dag Wirén and Sibelius’s Rakastava but so much more. It’s a complete winner and again is one of those pieces that needs to be picked up by Classic FM. Not to be missed, believe me. Pasi Piispanen’s elusively sentimental songs are here sung by Reijo Mustakallio (baritone). They represent a sort of approximation of the French chansonnier’s work. The most accomplished of them is the wonderfully counterpointed Valo (Light). These songs are more light than gravely classical but they are clearly the work of a craftsman of the emotions. Uuno Klami is represented by his Suite for String Orchestra. Its four short movements touch in the emotions with watercolour impressions yet without the colours running: It’s related to Rakastava but with a trace-infusion of mocha. The Allegro vivo has a significant Sibelian bustle. The disc is nicely recorded and the playing by the Tapiola Youth Strings wants nothing in accomplishment and emotion. 

There you have it: the Finnish composer Uuno Klami - a captivating composer whose tonal-nationalist-impressionistic style moved later in life a little towards the neo-classical. Do not neglect these indispensable Alba discs for your Klami collection.

Rob Barnett 

Klami on Chandos
CHAN 10427 X Karelian Rhapsody / Kalevala Suite / Sea Pictures; Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Petri Sakari

Klami on BIS
BIS-CD-656 Lemminkainen's Island Adventures / Song of Lake Kuujarvi / Pyorteita (Whirls), Ballet Suite Nos. 1 & 2. Ruuttunen, Esa, baritone; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Vanska, Osmo
BIS-CD-676 Kalevala Suite / The Cobblers on the Heath Overture / Tema con 7 variazioni e coda, Op. 44 (Theme with Seven Variations and Coda; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Vanska, Osmo
BIS-CD-696 Pyörteitä (Whirls): Act 1 (Orchestrated by Kalevi Aho) / Violin Concerto / Suomenlinna Overture - Jennifer Koh violin; Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
BIS-CD-806 Symphonie enfantine / Suite for Strings / Hommage à Haendel / Suite for Small Orch - Timo Koskinen (piano)/Jean-Jacques Kantorow/Tapiola Sinfonietta

Klami on Naxos
8.553757 Suomenlinna Overture / Kalevala Suite / Lemminkainen's Adventures on the Island of Saari / Sea Pictures - Turku Philharmonic Orchestra/Panula, Jorma

Klami on Ondine
ODE854-2 Symphony No. 1 / King Lear Tampere; Philharmonic Orchestra/Ollila-Hannikainen, Tuomas
ODE858-2 Symphony No. 2 / Symphonie Enfantine; Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Ollila-Hannikainen, Tuomas
ODE859-2 Lemminkainen's Adventures on an Island / The Cobblers on the Heath / Karelian Rhapsody / A Karelian Market / In the Belly of Viipunen; Petri Lindroos; Polytech Male Choir; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo 

 


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