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Tauno MARTTINEN (1912-2008)
Violin Concerto (1962) [22:44]
Piano Concerto No. 1 (1964) [16:52]
Phantasy for cello and orchestra (1964-78) [15:07]
Philippe Graffin (violin); Ralph van Raat (piano); Marko Ylönen (cello)
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen (concertos)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu (Phantasy)
rec. 2012, Tampere (Phantasy), 2013, Turku (Concertos)

The music of long-lived Finn, Tauno Marttinen has not had much of a look-in when it comes to commercial recordings. Jouni Somero and FC Records gave us his music for piano and from ages back there's a 2-CD Meet The Composer collection (chamber music) from Finlandia-Warner (0630-19053-2). His Violin Concerto and symphonies 1 and 8 are on BIS-CD701 but I have not heard that disc. One of the musicians in the Meet The Composer set was the very same Dirk Meijer who wrote the liner note for the present disc. Then again there's this CD from the discreet, almost self-effacing Dutch label Cobra comprising three concertante works and that's about it. The liner essay, by Dirk Meijer, is in English only. The audio image is in each case very clear and strong with the Tampere Hall being marginally superior in terms of transparency and bite.

The succinct Violin Concerto - also recorded by Pekka Kauppinen on BIS - is a product of the early 1960s. It's said to be pure twelve-tone music. It has the aural look and feel of the Berg concerto with its romantic tendencies strong but inward looking. A philosopher's amalgam of the Berg work with a dash of Paganini, it boasts impetuous interventions especially in the unflinchingly virtuosic yet ultimately enigmatic final Allegro Vivace. This looks back as if into the Sibylline mysteries before it finally flaunts display. It's by no means a cool work although certainly atmospherically meditative in its central Lento misterioso.

Also from the 1960s is the very different Piano Concerto No. 1. It seems quite an anomalous piece with none of the enigmatic modernity of the Violin Concerto. Majoring on display in its outer movements, it stands in the line of descent from the concertos by Chopin, Field, Liszt, Albeniz, Arensky and Scriabin. The central Adagio offers up a slightly more emotionally chafing and oblique world. Some obvious dissonances are no obstacle to a soul that is essentially gentle and accessible. This concerto would work well alongside the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 and the Arnold Piano Duet Concerto - approachable without being as catchy as either work.

The Phantasy was in the creative pressure cooker on and off for fourteen years, being repeatedly revised towards the end of that term. It's in three movements like the two concertos and has more in common with the flickering tension of the Violin Concerto than with the concourse display of the First Piano Concerto. The notes tell us that this is in effect Marttinen's Third Cello Concerto. Evidence of the composer's embrace with brilliance, the Phantasy is sometimes of a sombre caste but more often takes scintillating wing. The raw material of this score is as dark, hard and glassy as shattered coal.

None of this music is especially Finnish in any sense we might have gleaned from the examples of Sibelius, early Klami, Pingoud or Raitio. That said, we are told that until the mid-1950s Marttinen wrote in a romantic style. This seems have left an imprint even after he turned to 'modernism'. His works, as evidenced here, show that he was his own man and determined to cut his own swathe through the forest: modernity self-guided and softened by tradition.

Well done Cobra for working with Foundation Tauno Marttinen Kunniaksi in bringing this project to a positive outcome. That the project has attracted three such distinguished soloists is a mark of the respect in which Marttinen's music is held. It's only a pity that more Marttinen works could not have been included and that the liner-essay did not whet our appetite with more about the rest of the music. I hope that other discs showcasing this composer's heritage will follow.

Rob Barnett



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