Notes and Editorial Reviews
"We go right back to the beginning of Aho’s musical career with the first quintet on this disc, composed in 1973. In his booklet notes Aho confesses his love for the oboe; as with the tuba in the Tuba Concerto, he took the trouble to familiarise himself with the oboe's capabilities, the idea being to ‘extend the instrument’s expressive range’.
The first of the two movements opens with a bright, songful introduction on the oboe, soon underpinned by the warm strings. As with the orchestral works there is a remarkable clarity to the writing and a real sense of musical purpose. Even in the extended and more animated passages there is a lively dialogue between oboe and strings, at times building to moments of great
Fortunately the engineers have found a good recording balance, so the oboe never sounds overbright, even when played in extremis (at 10:18, for example). Which is just as well, as this instrument is the dominant force in this partnership. Just listen to the birdlike figures in the passage beginning at 5:39 and the virtuosic playing that follows. For a composer still at the beginning of his career this is assured, confident stuff. And the strings play with great bite and passion in the exhilarating section that begins at 9:43.
The first movement cadenza is even in tone and very clearly articulated, whatever the register. Jukka Hirvikangas is certainly the master of his instrument, and that goes for the nimble rhythms of the second movement – listen to the breathtaking passage that begins at 2:32. There is much to savour here, and although the oboe’s expressive range is tested it’s only in the second movement that the overall mood darkens and the music becomes more inward than extrovert. That said, Aho brings in some wonderfully sensuous, rather Latin, rhythms at 11:18. But the day belongs to the oboist, whose virtuosity is simply astonishing, now ebullient now reflective but always crisp and clear.
Seven Inventions is a much later work, derived from one of Aho’s earlier ones, the chamber opera Avain (The Key). The movements, played without a break, show the composer in a more austere, astringent mode, the music pared down to its essentials. Sonorities and colours are also darker and more complex, although Hirvikangas’s bright-toned oboe sings throughout. In the melting fifth movement, marked Andante, he has the field to himself, but in the sixth the mood suddenly changes. Ilkka Pälli’s cello playing is especially dark and intense from here onwards. The final Postlude is one of those classic Aho movements that fades to an enigmatic silence.
By contrast the shrill opening bars of the Quintet for Flute, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello are altogether more bracing. The composer admits he set out to ‘explore the outer limits of virtuosity in chamber music’, Outi Viitaniemi’s flute adding much to the music’s somewhat febrile character. It has the usual vigour and rhythmic interest we have come to expect from Aho but perhaps there’s more focus on colour and timbre. Certainly he makes great demands on his players – sample the rising passage at 3:54 – and the results are never less than compelling.
Indeed, for those who don’t like chamber music in general – and the contemporary variety in particular – this piece has all the colour, drama and thrust one could hope for, without ever becoming incoherent or overbearing. I was impatient for the end, not through boredom but because Aho usually springs some surprises in the final pages. Happily this quintet is no exception; sample 15:00 onwards and you’ll hear music of great originality and flair.
This is welcome release, characterised by a bright, clearly etched recording and playing of great polish. There’s always a fine line between sheer virtuosity and musical substance but the balance here seems just right."
-- Dan Morgan, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Quintet for Oboe and Strings by Kalevi Aho
Ilkka Pälli (Cello),
Jyrki Lasonpalo (Violin),
Esa Heikkilä (Violin),
Anu Airas (Viola),
Jukka Hirvikangas (Oboe)
Lahti Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1973; Finland
Quintet for Flute, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello by Kalevi Aho
Lasse Junttila (Oboe),
Outi Viitaniemi (Flute),
Ilkka Uurtimo (Cello),
Jaakko Kuusisto (Violin),
Anu Airas (Viola)
Lahti Chamber Ensemble
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1977; Finland
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