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Madetoja: Symphony No 2, Kullervo, Elegy / Storgards, Helsinki Philharmonic

Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1212  
Composer:  Leevi Madetoja
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Leevi Madetoja composed his magnificent Second Symphony in 1918, during the time of the Finnish Civil War. The music begins in pastoral tranquility with hints of the struggle to come. The slow second movement features cadenzas for offstage oboe and horn, growing organically in two large waves. Then violence breaks out in the war-like third movement, which also serves as a sort of development for the entire work, before a resigned epilog brings the work to a quiet close. Madetoja was a born symphonist. The very opening of the work features a motive that immediately begins to develop (sound clip), moving from breezy calm in the strings to ominous foreboding in the winds. You can tell in the first
Read more thirty seconds that the composer has total control over his material, and where he wants to go with it.

The symphony is roughly contemporaneous with Sibelius’ Fifth, and so reveals that Finnish music had more going on in the first decades of the 20th century than just its most famous composer. Consider also Kullervo, a tone poem lasting about a quarter of an hour, dates from 1913. It packs quite a punch. While not sounding quite as primal as Sibelius’ Kalevala-inspired works, it has plenty of the necessary epic feel, and it rises to a remarkably scored climax in which castanets and tambourine are used in a most unusual, threatening way to create a powerful feeling of frenzy. The Elegy (1909) is exactly what is claims to be: a gently sad, brief movement for string orchestra. It makes a touching encore.

Given their (undeserved) obscurity, both the tone poem and the symphony have enjoyed a small handful of recordings, but none that top this outstanding release. John Storgards is an excellent conductor, and he has the Helsinki Philharmonic maintaining the high standards set by his predecessor, Leif Segerstam. The performances are just about perfect in all respects: totally idiomatic, committed, passionate, and immaculately played. There isn’t a dull second, and he’s exceptionally well recorded. On evidence here the orchestra’s new home, the Helsinki Music Center, is a good place to record, certainly better than the old Finlandia Hall. A great release.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in E flat major, Op. 35 by Leevi Madetoja
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1918; Finland 
Symphonic Suite, Op. 4: no 1, Elegia by Leevi Madetoja
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Finland 
Kullervo, Op. 15 by Leevi Madetoja
Conductor:  John Storgĺrds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; Finland 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Epic Symphony; Glorious Performance August 8, 2014 By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews "If you have not previously encountered the music of Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja, a great way to acquaint yourself with some really outstanding Finnish music that is not completely beholden to Jean Sibelius is this magnificent new Ondine CD. Under conductor John Storgards, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra delivers a sensational performance that puts it at the level of the very finest European orchestras. The central wok on the program is Madetoja's Second Symphony, a work which has its roots in the turbulent years of the Finnish Civil War as WW1 came to an end. There is enormous tension and power throughout the first and third movements, while the second movement is a dramatic and heartfelt Andante, and the final movement is a short and quiet meltdown, almost a sigh of resignation to fate. This is a serious, brilliantly conceived symphony, and its impact is enhanced that much more by the fabulous performance it gets, as noted above. Accompanying the symphony are two shorter, but equally impressive works, Kullervo (Madetoja's take on a portion of Finland's great national epic The Kalevala) and Elegy, one of his very earliest compositions. As you can probably tell by now, I am in total agreement with the comments of Arkivmusic's professional critic on this new recording, and it is easy to see why it received a 10/10 rating. In addition to the above comments, you also have a disk of the highest technical quality- wide dynamic range, glowing orchestral sound, great balance- in short, Ondine has produced a real audiophile recording. This music deserves to be heard by a wide classical music loving community- it's really good. Absolutely recommended all the way!!" Report Abuse
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