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Nostalgia: Lyrical Finnish Music for Strings
Reijo Tunkkari (violin)
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Juha Kangas
rec. Snellman Hall, Kokkola, Finland, 2011
Reviewed as 16-bit lossless download from eClassical.com
Booklet not provided
ALBA ABCD344 SACD [62:36]

My dictionary defines nostalgia as “a longing for the past”. Well, all these works are at least seventy years old, but if that was the only criterion for nostalgia, the great majority of classical albums would fit equally well. It is the sub-title that gives the game away. This is a longing for a past when music meant melody, and there’s no doubt that all these works fit the bill perfectly: each is deliciously and delightfully lyrical, even though quite a few of them were written after Schoenberg and Stravinsky turned the music world upside-down.

Those responsible for the choice of works are to be congratulated for not simply loading up on Sibelius, but giving us a range of Finnish composers, familiar and unknown. Equally pleasing is that we are not presented with arrangements of popular works, done just for the recording. The arrangements that are included have been made by the composer.

The next issue with some of these compilations is that the music tends to all sound the same after a few tracks. I’m pleased to say that there is sufficient variety of tempos, moods and styles here, taking into account the constraints of the strings-only scoring, and the sequencing has been thought through to maximise contrast.

There is nothing to be gained in attempting to comment on each work as repetition would set in. They are, without exception, very enjoyable. Given the title, no one is going to approach this album expecting deep intensity or complex tonalities. If you are after well-crafted melodious works, this is a really quite excellent collection. I will, however, highlight two works that really stood out with their imaginative variety of textures and rhythms. As it turned out, they were both by the same composer – Väinö Raitio – a name new to me. I see that there is an Ondine recording of his works for small orchestra which both Hubert Culot and Rob Barnett enjoyed. I will certainly be pursuing it.

The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra has been in existence for more than forty years, though only professional since 1989. They have a number of recordings on Alba, the most recent one being Fiddler’s Spring (review), which I very much enjoyed. Since the time of recording this, Sakari Oramo has taken over the position of Chief Conductor. They play with great ensemble and make the most of each work. Concertmaster Tunkkari takes the solo role in a number of the pieces with great feeling. The notes were not supplied by eClassical (don’t get me started) - I obtained them from the Naxos Music Library. They are relatively brief, but do address each work individually. The sound is good, and I found myself wishing that I could have heard it in its full 24-bit SACD glory, but that wasn’t available as a download.

David Barker

Track listing
Robert KAJANUS (1856-1933)
Berceuse The Pauper Girl’s Lullaby (1896) [3:50]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Impromptu, Op. 5/5-6 (1894) [5:47]
Romance in C major, Op. 42 (1904) [4:17]
Armas JÄRNEFELT (1869-1958)
Aamulla varhain ‘Early One Morning’ (1900) [4:28]
Jean SIBELIUS
String Quartet in B flat major: III. Presto, Op. 4/3 (arr. string orchestra) (1894) [5:57]
Erkki MELARTIN (1875–1937)
Canzone [4:00]
Aarre MERIKANTO (1893–1958)
Canzone (1934) [3:10]
Väinö RAITIO (1891-1945)
Romance (1940) [5:25]
Serenata (1940) [3:04]
Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Lullaby (1934) [3:51]
Sonatine (1940) [3:18]
Heino KASKI (1885-1957)
Song Without Words [2:24]
Leevi MADETOJA (1887-1947)
Elegy Op. 4/1 (1909) [4:25]
Toivo KUULA (1883-1918)
Song Without Words Op. 22/1 (1910) [2:50]
South Ostrobothnian Suite No. 1, Op. 9: Ostrobothnian Folk Song (1909) [2:53]
Väinö HAAPALAINEN (1893-1945)
Finnish Folk Melodies: ‘I Cannot Forget You’ (1929) [2:41]