Lotta WENNÄKOSKI (b. 1970) Soie (2009) for flute and orchestra [18:28] Hava (2007) [10:01] Amor Omnia Suite (2014) [26:31]
Kersten McCall (flute)
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Dima Slobodeniouk
rec. 2014, Helsinki Music Centre, Finland. ONDINE ODE 1259-2 [54:23]
Lotta Wennäkoski is a new name to the MWI site, but her music has the confident sheen of a highly experienced composer. She studied with the likes of Kaija Saariaho and Louis Andriessen, but while there are inevitable eclectic comparisons to be made with other contemporary composers the immediate impression gained is of a solidly individual voice. Wennäkoski herself says “I am inspired not just by music for its own sake; I like to take impulses from the outside world too.”
Soie is a superb vehicle for the virtuoso playing of flautist Kersten McCall. The title means ‘silk’ in French, and aside from the more Andriessen-like hammer blows of the brief central movement Lin gros or ‘rough linen’, the filigree intensity of the orchestration is remarkably representative of “light, translucent, billowing fabric” in the swiftly changing slides and gestures of Voile, the first and longest movement. Anyone looking for a demonstration of flute glissandi can take this as a prime example. The eponymous final movement has a more meditative, zen quality; the cadenza like flute part given vast space over the almost invisible brushstrokes of the orchestra.
Hava turns out to be the Hungarian word for ‘snow’, but has associations in Finnish with words meaning ‘rustling’ or ‘alertness’. The starting point was the desire to write a “fast texture piece”, and the racy pace and constantly shifting colours certainly deliver in this regard. Texture is important, but this is by no means an aleatoric work. Everything is detailed and through-composed, perhaps something like a Sibelius symphony viewed through a time-lapse sequence of photography. The penultimate quiet section is strikingly atmospheric.
The Amor Omnia Suite derives from music for a film directed by Konrad Tallroth which tells a deeply tragic love story. The ‘suite’ actually joins scenes together to form a single-movement work, its suspenseful feel heightened by whispered words from the orchestra. Wennäkoski remains true to her idiom in making this film score, while at the same time avoiding something that would ‘overwhelm the visual narrative’. Such a love story could easily dip into sentimentality, but this is also avoided even with glorious, sweeping passages that have a clear emotional message. The final moments are very moving indeed. Hearing such a think makes one want to see the film to see how the music connects with the narrative, in part since there are no real clues other than one’s own imagination to fill in where things may fit.
It is sometimes difficult to pin reference points onto new music, so you have some idea of what to expect. One or two names spring to mind including Rautavaara and Berio, but then again these are impressions at fleeting moments in which the worlds of different composers coincide. Either way, if you enjoy a well-crafted and imaginatively challenging musical landscape then this will be something to relish. Everything is superbly performed and recorded, and the booklet has notes in English and Finnish.