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Hameenniemi: Symphony No 3, Viola Concerto / Oramo, Et Al

Release Date: 11/21/2006 
Label:  Alba Records   Catalog #: 214   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Eero Hameenniemi
Performer:  Tommi Aalto
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 43 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HÄMEENNIEMI Symphony No. 3 in C. 1 Viola Concerto 2 Sakari Oramo, cond; 1 Tommi Aalto (va); 2 Hannu Lintu, cond; 2 Finnish RSO ALBA 214 (43:24)

This is my first acquaintance with Eero Hämeenniemi, a contemporary Finnish composer born in Read more 1951. I hope it will not be my last, because the two extended works on this disc make a powerful and lasting impression. Unfortunately, Alba Records, which recorded the symphony and the concerto in 1999 and 2004 respectively, has not made much of an effort to provide biographical or background information on a composer whose name is almost as unpronounceable to English-speaking readers as his music surely must be unfamiliar to American, Canadian, Western European, and Australian audiences. In fact, this appears to be only the third CD of Hämeenniemi’s works to be recorded; and, his name does not show up in the Fanfare index—I’d have expected an earlier Ondine release of his violin concerto and first two symphonies conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste to have been reviewed.

In any case, Hämeenniemi studied composition at the Sibelius Academy with Paavo Heininen, receiving his diploma in 1978. He then continued his studies in Poland and Italy, and in the US with Joseph Schwantner and Warren Benson. The descriptive notes on the works, authored by the composer, tell us nothing meaningful about the music, unless one finds Hämeenniemi’s fascination with both film versions of The Nutty Professor and the character portrayals by Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy of more than passing insignificance.

More to the point is Hämeenniemi’s explanation that both his Symphony No. 3 and Viola Concerto are based on a monothematic scheme. As with Haydn’s monothematic symphonies, however, Hämeenniemi provides sufficient artful variation and development of his material to articulate a sense of contrast. In other words, there is no monotony in Hämeenniemi’s monothematicism. Each work unfolds in two movements: in the case of the Symphony, slow-fast; in the case of the Concerto, moderate-slow. Yet the feeling in both is of long, unbroken arches, the segments of which are firmly cemented together by clearly recognizable thematic motifs.

It would be misleading to say that this music is quickly or easily processed by the ear, but after a couple of hearings it becomes fairly easy to follow where it is going and how it is getting there, which is to say there is clarity to its logic. It’s a bit more difficult to describe the expressive content, perhaps because my reaction was more intellectual than emotional—and indeed the composer’s own description of his music speaks only of its monothematic relationships, not of its relationships to the senses. This much I can say: Hämeenniemi’s musical vocabulary is that of a post-modernist, allying it more closely with the neo-Romantic revisionist revival of a composer, for example, like Vasks, than with an exact Finnish contemporary, Kaija Saariaho, (b. 1952) who also happened to study at the Sibelius Academy under the same teacher, Paavo Heininen, but who went down a much more avant-garde path.

Tommi Aalto (is that a perfect name for a violist, or what?) plays the difficult sounding Viola Concerto (lots of double-stopping) with purity of tone and without strain; and the Finnish Radio forces here under Oramo and Lintu are captured in full bloom by an excellent recording. Recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 by Eero Hameenniemi
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; Finland 
Length: 23 Minutes 39 Secs. 
Concerto for Viola by Eero Hameenniemi
Performer:  Tommi Aalto (Viola)
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; Finland 
Length: 19 Minutes 33 Secs. 

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