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Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Sonata in C minor for Violin and Piano (1920) [18:44]
Andantino for Viola and Piano (1920) [6:20]
Berceuse (1928/9) [4:02]
Piano Quartet in D major (1922) [17:59]
Uuno Klami-Ensemble
rec. 27-30 July 2020, Kuusankoski Hall, Kouvola, Finland
ALBA ABCD460 [47:15]

Uuno Klami is widely known and highly regarded as a remarkably gifted composer of colourful and substantial orchestral scores. They include the Kalevala Suite, the large-scale choral-orchestral Psalmus, the magnificent Northern Lights, the two symphonies, and the unfinished ballet Whirls. On the other hand, his chamber music – which represents but a small part of his varied output – seems to have been largely overlooked, if not completely ignored. I for one had never heard of any chamber work of his. This recent release puts things right again but it must be said that Klami’s chamber works, composed in the early 1920s, may not be as representative of his music as his orchestral output. They also inevitably bear the mark of some influences on the young composer’s music. Things were not made easier for performers because manuscripts were either incomplete, messy, unclear or merely sketchy. Some reconstruction has been necessary. This is what happened to the Sonata in C minor for violin and piano. Klami began composing it in about May 1920 but for whatever reason it was left unfinished, with just sketches for the third movement. At about the same time, he composed his Sonata in B-flat minor for viola and piano. That piece was duly completed and its first movement was performed in Helsinki in May 1921. Incidentally, it was Klami’s first public appearance as a composer.

Now, back to the Violin Sonata. In 2013 the pianist Esa Ylönen, who also wrote the notes for this recording, made a world-premiere recording of the first two movements. He could not help “hoping that a natural finale could be reconstructed to make the sonata complete”. Some time later, while editing the Viola Sonata, violist-composer Eero Kesti noticed that the main section of its finale is fully based on the sketches for the finale of the Violin Sonata. He concluded that the two finales were presumably meant to be very similar, even though in different keys. So, the third movement of the Violin Sonata was reconstructed accordingly. That said, the Sonata as recorded here is a very fine piece on its own right, perfectly viable and with a wide range of emotions. The bold first movement strongly contrasts with the lyrical Andante molto, and the whole is rounded off by a rather lengthy finale.

Unfortunately enough, one cannot have a complete view of the Viola Sonata in B-flat minor since only its central movement Andantino is recorded here. It is another beautiful piece of music but I would have been happy to be able to hear the complete Sonata, never mind the similarity of its outer movements and their counterparts in the Violin Sonata. That would have afforded, I think, some further point of comparison, the more so because the rather short playing time would have allowed the inclusion of the complete Viola Sonata (probably of a similar duration as the Violin Sonata).

The short Berceuse is Klami’s own arrangement for violin and piano of the second movement of his Symphonie enfantine Op 17 (1928/1929). Kalevi Aho in his notes for the recording of the piece (available on BIS-806) remarks that the Berceuse is a beautiful example of cradle-songs encountered from time to time in Klami’s output. The best-known example is the Cradle Song for Lemminkäinen in the Kalevala Suite. As befits its title, the music is harmonious and melodically appealing but with some darker undertones.

The last work in this ear-opening release is the fairly substantial Piano Quartet in D major of 1922. The composer obviously flexes his muscles, and is not afraid of grand gestures and gorgeous instrumental touches. The richly textured and multi-layered first movement gives way to the central Molto andante. The dreamy mood of the beginning is somewhat dispelled by a more turbulent central section before the return of the opening. The third movement is fairly remarkable: it points towards the mature music of Klami mainly in the forceful episodes sounding like some energetic folk dance full of vehemently repeated notes ending this substantial piece of music in high spirits. The Piano Quartet is undoubtedly a major achievement in Klami’s early output.

Excellently played and highly committed performances do these fine works full justice. The recorded sound is quite fine, and the well-informed notes by Esa Ylönen are a real asset. This release is a compulsory purchase for all completists of Klami’s music.

Hubert Culot

Uuno Klami-Ensemble: Essi Höglund (violin), Eero Kesti (viola), Sirja Nironen (cello), Esa Ylönen (piano)

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