Armas JARNEFELT (1869-1958)
Orchestral Works
Symphonic Fantasy (1895) [20:51]
Suite in E flat major (1897) [21:40]
Serenade (1893) [29:59]
Berceuse for violin and orchestra (1904) [340]
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Jaakko Kuusisto (violin)
rec. May, August 2008, Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland. DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1753 [77:07]

The Järnefelt children were a talented lot. Eero was a painter, Arvid an author and Armas a composer. Aino married Jean Sibelius. It was Sibelius’s music that put Järnefelt’s works in the shade – as it did with all the other Finnish composers for his own and several Finnish generations to follow.

As for influences on Järnefelt’s music you do not need desperately sensitive antennae. Sibelius is there, as are the other leading denizens of the romantic genre: Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Franck and Massenet. The Symphonic Fantasy is a smooth piece of high-flown romantic writing, brooding, discursive and not desperately taut. Apart from the understandable Sibelian echoes these play in wan half-lights throughout this 21 minute continuous piece. Franck’s still terribly under-rated Psyché is also evoked and it is this voice that irradiates the final pages. Two years later came the five movement Suite in E flat major. It is a serene piece having its mood-set in common with the Massenet suites, the Brahms serenades and the lighter more relaxed pages of Sibelius’s early theatre music. The moonlit writing for strings in the first two movements is Dvorákian. Mendelssohn haunts the Presto. The finale suffers from little bouts of bombast. The Serenade is in six movements. It offers a pleasant listen with a dab of Karelia here, a smidgin of Glazunov there, a tear-stain of sentimentality, a glinting speckle of Tchaikovskian harp, a softened sob, a touching wistful sigh, a hint of charming street-life and a romping country dance. If you would like more of the pleasing and undemanding fare offered by Glazunov’s suites, then you know that Järnefelt will be there for you. The final Berceuse is gently touching with a lightly Slavonic yearning. One can hear in this work the romantic vein from which Sibelius mined the peaceful charms of the two Serenades for violin and orchestra. The helpful liner-note is by Kimmo Korhonen. The recording quality is excellent done with typically unglamorous Bis fidelity.

This is a generous slice of Järnefelt’s orchestral music. I am pleased to welcome its low key charms and melancholy smiles. If you are already captivated by Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, the Glazunov ballet music (Raymonda and Les Ruses d’Amour), the Tchaikovsky genre pieces and the Massenet character suites then this is for you.

Rob Barnett

A generous slice of Järnefelt’s orchestral music. You will be pleased to welcome its low key charms and melancholy smiles.