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Editorial Board
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Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Northern Lights, Op. 38 (1946) [18:49]
Cheremissian Fantasy for cello and orchestra, Op. 19 (1931) [13:27]
Kalevala Suite, Op. 23 (1943) [32:56]
Samuli Peltonen (cello)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 30 January, 2 February, 11 September 2009. DDD
ONDINE ODE 1143-2 [65:25]


Experience Classicsonline

A number of labels including Naxos (8.553757) and Chandos (CHAN9268) have catered to the Klami constituency with a single disc apiece. Others, including Finlandia, Bis, Alba and Ondine have issued three or four all-Klami discs. The super-majors like Universal and EMI have looked the other way.
The present disc is a continuation of a strand launched by Ondine - one of Finland’s great labels – in 1995. ODE859-2 was an all-Klami affair with Sakari Oramo - in his pre-CBSO days - conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in The Adventures Of Lemminkainen On The Island Of Saari, The Cobblers On The Heath Overture, Karelian Rhapsody, Karelian Market Place and In The Belly Of Vipunen. Ondine went on, in 1996, to record the two numbered symphonies with Tuomas Ollila and the Tampere Philharmonic on ODE 854–2 and ODE 858-2 respectively. All three discs ought to be available and must surely merit review here. Ondine now set out their stall again with a rarish cello work previously recorded by Finlandia, the Kalevala Suite which has featured in most single disc Klami collections and Northern Lights – the latter a work not previously recorded and unknown to most.
Northern Lights (properly Revontulet) was among the earliest of Klami’s post-war works. As such I was expecting the idiom to be more international, a trend that afflicts much of his later output. Not a bit of it. Northern Lights is a subtle yet highly coloured orchestral fantasy in the most vivid of garbs. The music presents as a beneficent collision between Stravinsky’s Firebird and Sibelius’s Pohjola’s Daughter yet with stony dissonance. The shuddering theme at 11:15 reminded me of similar episodes in Tubin’s Sixth Symphony – a work that carries inspirational and sinister intimations of the Aurora Borealis. Northern Lights rises to a towering and unearthly climax. This is the second recording of the Cheremissian Fantasy. It’s a very exciting fantasy for cello and orchestra juxtaposing music of great melodic tenderness with an explosive wildness of heart. It’s academic but Peltonen provides a real challenge to Noras’s deleted Warner-Finlandia version. The last work on the disc is the five movement Kalevala Suite: I. The Creation of the Earth, II. The Sprout of Spring, III. Terhenniemi, IV. Cradle Song for Lemminkäinen and V. The Forging of the Sampo. It went through various evolutionary forms with the four movement suite premiered in Helsinki by Schneevoight in 1933. It was to be another ten years before further changes and an additional movement saw the light of day under Toivo Haapanen, again in Helsinki. Storgårds drives The Creation of the Earth towards a bombastic yet gloriously pummelling climactic paragraph. The Sprout of Spring is more idyllic with avian woodwind and lovingly undulating and caressing string figures. I mentioned The Firebird earlier in connection with Northern Lights. You can hear it again in unmistakable form alternating with Sibelian rejoicing from Lemminkainen and even the odd shadow of Shostakovich. The dynamics are superbly handled. The Cradle Song for Lemminkäinen is by no means untroubled. Although the harp tries its best to lull, the cor anglais line is constantly dark-clouded. The Forging of the Sampo is a rapturously uber-Sibelian piece which for me recalls the explosive magnificence of Bax’s Second Symphony, Ravel’s Rhapsodie Espagnole and the Second Symphony and Pohjola’s Daughter by Sibelius. The steel-bell crashes at 4:45 are extraordinary as is the gawky marching angularity at 5:26. The suite is much recorded but this is magnificently done.
If Ondine want to shake the rafters with a second Klami disc they need look no further than Klami’s Psalmus for soloists chorus and orchestra (1932-36) which has been recorded only once before and which has been unavailable on disc (Finlandia FACD369) for years. They should couple it with The Bearer of the Golden Staff Cantata (1960-61).
The present disc needs to be heard by anyone who claims expertise or affection for Scandinavian music.


Rob Barnett



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