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Imaginary Landscapes

Sibelius / Lehto / Fagerlund / Turku Ensemble
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Pilfink Records   Catalog #: 69   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aarre MerikantoJean SibeliusSebastian FagerlundJukka-Pekka Lehto
Conductor:  Pertti Pekkanen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


MERIKANTO Piano Trio in a. SIBELIUS En Saga. FAGERLUND Imaginary Landscapes. LEHTO Woodwind Quintet

Along with Einojuhani Rautavaara and Jean Sibelius, Aarre Merikanto (1893–1958) is now regarded as one of Read more the greatest Finnish composers. After his initial studies he turned to a fairly radical mode of composition, astringent to say the least, though some works, like the tone poem Pan (1924), display a vigorous style of what might be called, albeit cautiously, Nordic Impressionism. By the time the 1920s had wound down so had his modernist proclivities, and he moved toward a more accessible style. It is no accident that the Trio in A Minor heard here, and most likely inspired during his teens when the composer was studying with Max Reger, was delayed until 1937 when the atmosphere was more favorable to a performance, though Merikanto always upheld a high regard for the early-Romantic work. It is a beauty, with nary a weak moment, and the all-too-short Andante (second movement) is simply exquisite. If you like piano trios—and is there anyone who doesn’t ?—you will want this.

Jean Sibelius is a much more familiar figure to us in the West, and the Swedish (the mother tongue of Sibelius) title En Saga (A Fairy Tale) is said by the composer to reveal his innermost thoughts as few of his works ever did. Curiously, though the work followed hard on the heels of Kullervo , Sibelius disavowed any literary associations with the piece. It started as an octet with flute and clarinet then migrated to a septet that was subsequently lost. This recording is based on a reconstruction carried out by Gregory Barrett based on the original 1893 Helsinki premiere, where the composer conducted. Acute listeners will miss the brass and all the pomp and beauty of orchestral majesty that we associate with Sibelius, but this remarkable chamber version has much to offer and loses little atmosphere.

Sebastian Fagerlund’s Imaginary Landscapes proves to be just that—musical snapshots that taken together are supposed to form a coherent whole. Sometimes the material changes, other times it remains static, but is always appearing in a new light. The piece is highly evocative and quite beguiling in its Takemitsu-like textures and wonderful sense of dramatic pacing. The Woodwind Quintet of Jukka-Pekka Lehto (b.1958), who only started composing in the mid 1990s, is in a long line of northern-climes wind music. Lehto has been writing much music in his short career and has picked up the technique very well. He admits that this quintet has as its inspiration the works of composers like Ibert, Poulenc, Françaix, and Bozza, icons all to anyone who has ever picked up a wind instrument. He is correct—those ghosts haunt almost every bar of each of the four movements of this work, and Stravinsky’s harmonic palate of the neoclassical years is not far in the background, either. This sort of piece surprised me, as other Finnish works for winds that I have heard in the last 20 years or so seem crushingly dependent on bracing modernism—not this one, and its clever construction and lively dances are most attractive.

The Turku Ensemble is made of up of teachers from the Turku Conservatory and Turku Philharmonic, based of course in Turku, the medieval city on the southwest coast of Finland that once boasted being of prime importance to the country before its annexation into the Russian Empire in 1809, when Helsinki took over that role. The players are all first-rate, and the performances could hardly be bettered. Top recommendation.

FANFARE: Steven E. Ritter
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Works on This Recording

Piano Trio in A minor by Aarre Merikanto
Conductor:  Pertti Pekkanen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Ensemble
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1917 
Date of Recording: 05/2008 
Venue:  Sigyn Hall, Turku, Finland 
Length: 24 Minutes 21 Secs. 
En saga, Op. 9 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Pertti Pekkanen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Ensemble
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892/1902; Finland 
Date of Recording: 05/2008 
Venue:  Sigyn Hall, Turku, Finland 
Length: 21 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Imaginary Landscapes, for chamber orchestra by Sebastian Fagerlund
Conductor:  Pertti Pekkanen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Ensemble
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2002 
Date of Recording: 05/2008 
Venue:  Sigyn Hall, Turku, Finland 
Length: 9 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Woodwind Quintet by Jukka-Pekka Lehto
Conductor:  Pertti Pekkanen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Ensemble
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 05/2008 
Venue:  Sigyn Hall, Turku, Finland 
Length: 20 Minutes 4 Secs. 

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