This is the last of five volumes by FC-Records (FinnConcert
until recently) in their series 'An Anthology of Finnish Piano
Music', all performed by Finnish soloist Jouni Somero, and all
widely available on the internet.
In Finland no piano sonata tradition emerged in the 19th century
in the way it did in many European countries, the focus instead
being on short pieces and suites, as the previous four volumes
in this series have testified. There is more of that on this
final release, but here, for the first time, Somero features
a bona fide Sonata, by Yrjö Kilpinen, whose six works
in the genre were the exception.
Kilpinen's Sonata dwarfs the other items in Somero's recital.
Although its placement lends the disc a somewhat bottom-heavy
feel, the Sonata, the last of Kilpinen's six and here in its
premiere recording, is sufficient reason on its own for this
CD to earn a place on every pianophile's shelf. In his notes,
Somero likens the spirit of the work to Prokofiev's own no.6,
written three years later in the same key and, coincidentally,
with almost the same opus number. Kilpinen's Sixth is altogether
more lyrical and aspirational, and lacks the sheer rhythmic
force and technical extravagance of Prokofiev's, but both have
a poignancy that at times threatens to turn positive, even sensual.
With one or two minor exceptions, the pieces on this disc are
clustered around the Second World War, and a certain sombreness
pervades the programme, nowhere more so than in Marvia's funereal
In Memoriam, written for a deceased teacher. For all
its Webernesque brevity, the three-movement Sonatina
by Helvi Leiviskä - one of Finland's most important female
composers - is a classic of its kind. There is, however, attractive
music, classically structured and melodic, on virtually every
page of these scores, all hand-picked by Somero from a pile
of Finnish music "about a metre high." Other highlights
include Pylkkänen's moody, Chopin-haunted Prelude
- surprisingly one of only two pieces, both very short, he composed
for the piano - and Raitio's Lisztian Barcarolle.
According to FC-Records, Somero has given more than 2,400 concerts
or recitals all over the world, and has made more than sixty
recordings, from Bach to Bortkiewicz (see review),
with an emphasis on late-Romantic repertoire that leaves him
well versed in the particular expressive, technical and intellectual
demands of the type of music on this disc. His stature has in
any case grown with each volume.
Sound quality is good: louder, brighter and more resonant than,
for example, volume 3, without a change in recording location
- suggesting that reverberation has been added in the studio.
Somero once again provides some interesting if brief notes on
the composers, commenting, say, on the sex discrimination directed
until recently at Leiviskä, or the fact that Pingoud was
killed when he was hit by a train, a modus moriendi he
had indicated a preference for as a young trainspotter! Somero's
own biographical note, meanwhile, is a straight cut-and-paste
job from all previous FC-Records discs. The full-page colour
photo of him in the booklet is magnificently unflattering, suggestive
of a sense of humour lacking in some younger pianists.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
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