The music of Antti Hernesniemi is fascinatingly uncompromising. His ability to move equally well between the arts (and indeed the sciences) makes him something of a Renaissance man. Doctor, sculptor, poet, and composer (not necessarily in that order), Hernesniemi is a busy man. This disc provides a welcome opportunity to sample his music.
The first piece is initially quite startling , in that it sounds like it is played on a pub piano. It is actually performed on a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170. Tubular bells play a part in the latter stages of the work. The actual sound world is fascinating. Hernesniemi conjures up a huge variety of sounds, ranging from active aggregates (or more accurately, swarms of notes) to telling single lines. Read more />
One interesting facet of Hernesniemi’s music is that he can call on a wide variety of styles, which he then bends to his expressive needs. Thus, the second movement of Ascending Form seems almost Mahlerian in inspiration; the next movement is shamelessly romantic (in a more non-Mahlerian fashion). Interestingly, by using such long-breathed lines, Hernesniemi implies a duration that does not materialize. Expectations are constantly set up and then contradicted. Poem , the second piece, seems to include gestures derived from electronic music; others are exquisitely pianistic.
A fascinating disc, one that only whets the appetite and leaves one thirsty for more.
-- Colin Clarke, FANFARE
Antti Samuli Hernesniemi is a Finnish composer and doctor. The brief credits for this apparently self-produced CD note that he has written hundreds of songs, music for theater and pieces for piano and guitar. Despite this impressive resume, I’m guessing that the doctoring pays the bills in the Hernesniemi household.
Because of the scant notes, and because the technical data is in Finnish, I contacted the composer via e-mail for more information about this recording. He is obviously intently dedicated to his music. He was studying at the University of Helsinki, but “times got rough there, and we older guys were not accepted anymore.” Hernesniemi was born in 1950. He since moved to Turku, to study at what is presumably the more accepting atmosphere of the Åbo Akademi.
He is the sole musician on this album, at the keyboard for the first two works, and using electronic media to mimic the sound of orchestra and wordless chorus for the final work. He uses a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-170 throughout, which produces a remarkably realistic piano tone. The music is quite fascinating, if not especially original. The opening work, Man playing on the shore, is a furious, roiling cascade of notes, in a kind of free-jazz manner. Poem is also very dense in texture, but less intensely expressed. The composer confirms the improvisatory nature of his style. “I think that the best music coming into my mind and being expressed through my hands needs no writing. I was allowed to make the compositions for ‘sävellyksiä 1’ [compositions 1] without notes.” Some of the motifs and technique he uses border on the hackneyed, but he always pulls back, and his sincerity of expression wins the day. Even the use of tubular bells manages to sound charming.
Hernesniemi is clearly a Romantic at heart, and sites such diverse influences as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Scarlatti, and, almost reflexively, “our Jean Sibelius.” I am surprised he did not include Mahler on the list, because the spirit of his late music hangs heavily over the most ambitious work on this album, Ascending form. The piece, twice as long as the preceding works, was written to accompany a quasi-auto biographical theater work with dance, about a sculptor working by the sea (Hernesniemi is also a sculptor, and a picture of one of his pieces is on the cover of the CD). The music proceeds in large, arching phrases built of rich harmonies (think Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth). The structure is episodic, but logical, and the whole pace and emotional heft of the work serves as an antidote to the often frantic music at the beginning of the album. It binds the whole presentation in a way that makes for a compelling and unusual array of contemporary music.