An Anthology of Finnish Piano Music - Volume 5
Väinö RAITIO (1891-1945)
Barcarolle (1914) [3:44]
Pastorale (1914) [3:04]
Helvi LEIVISKä (1902-1982)
Sonatina in F (1939) [4:42]
Tauno PYLKKäNEN (1918-1980)
Prelude (1940) [4:29]
Nils-Eric FOUGSTEDT (1910-1961)
Variations Chromatiques (1943) [4:43]
Ernst PINGOUD (1887-1942)
Tango Oriental [4:44]
Einari MARVIA (1915-1997)
In Memoriam, op.7 (1937) [5:22]
Yrjö KILPINEN (1892-1959)
Piano Sonata no.6 in A, op.81 (1936) [34:40]
Jouni Somero (piano)
rec. Kuusa Hall, Kuusankoski, Finland, 20-21 April 2008. DDD
FC-RECORDS FCRCD 9722 [65:33]
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.
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A certain sombre quality pervades the programme.