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aBritish Symphonies
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Alwyn, Grace Williams, Arnold, Wordsworth. Searle, Joubert


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Tauno MARTTINEN (1912-2008)
Piano Works
Taara Suite, op.34 (1967) [16:16]
Piano Sonata, op. 90 (1974) [17:42]
Pääsiäinen (Easter), op.66 (1971-72) [11:19]
Kimalluksia, op.134 (1977) [7:34]
Piano Sonata no.3, op.214b (1982) [12:38]
Jouni Somero (piano)
rec. Kuusaa Hall, Kuusankoski, Finland, 11-12 March 2012.
FC-RECORDS FCRCD-9748 [65:31]

Long-lived Finnish composer Tauno Marttinen devoted his career chiefly to orchestral music, with numerous operas, ballets, symphonies and concertante works making up the bulk of his corpus, which ran to around a thousand items, many of substantial proportions. Though Marttinen went through a post-war twelve-tone period, by the time he came to these piano works he had moved on, albeit not to a medium of expression that makes for the most comfortable of listening for those with more traditional tastes. All the works on this disc can be characterised as virtuosic, rather austere, atonal - though 'neo-tonal' probably better describes the relatively moderate dissonances - and loud, with deep crashing chords balanced by high-end trills and tinkling.
 
If that sounds like a recipe for asceticism, in a way it is: as he got older, Marttinen turned more and more to mysticism and, like Skriabin famously before him, those feelings fed his music. There are a few translucent, optimistic passages, most notably in the fine op.90 Sonata, intermittent signs that Marttinen was mellowing towards more orthodox tonality.
 
Finnish pianist Jouni Somero is ideally suited to this beefy, virile music. Quite how many of the fortississimos are actually Marttinen's is hard to tell - on some of his previous recordings for FC-Records, like the Sergei Bortkiewicz cycle (review), Somero gave new meaning to the term Hammerklavier. On the whole, though, he gives a coherent, reasonably convincing account of these highly vivacious works. He is assisted by generally goodish audio, although the full-volume recording flirts with distortion in the loudest passages. Somero's stool creaks in a few spots too, and there is a fairly obvious editing join about halfway through the Third Piano Sonata. The booklet notes are in FC-Records' usual style - Finnish original, English translation, bare-bones composer biography, no information on the featured music, and a much-recycled Somero biography.
 
In sum, this is not a disc to listen to with a headache, but for those who do not mind pianistic gloom and clangorous excitement, this is a rare chance to hear an important composer through an unaccustomed medium.
 
Byzantion
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