Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a fantastic disc. I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of Kalevi Aho's Symphony No. 11 (for orchestra and six percussionists) at the opening of Lahti's lovely new Sibelius Hall. The event was great fun, but I was a bit disappointed at the work's musical content and in particular the fact that the hall had yet to be "tuned" and so percussion had a tendency to drown out the orchestra. Hearing the work again, with the balances so sensitively judged, makes a much more favorable impression. The second-movement Allegro ritmico's varied drum sounds now have the necessary variety to sustain the movement's (by no means excessive) length, and the melodic contributions from the
orchestra cut through the textures clearly. And the finale, with its hypnotically quiet string and wind lines and delicate percussion tracery, now strikes me as a gamble that pays off handsomely when the background is so quiet and no audience noises distract the attention.
The symphony, then, is excellent, but the Symphonic Dances are simply phenomenal. Aho wrote the work as the third act of Uuno Klami's unfinished ballet Whirls, having previously orchestrated Act 1 from the composer's piano score (the middle act was the only one completed by the composer before his death in 1961). In keeping with Klami's general stylistic debt to early-20th-century French Impressionism (Ravel especially), the music is a touch more conservative in idiom than the symphony, but the differences aren't huge (because the symphony is very appealing melodically as well). The plot of the ballet comes from the Kalevala and concerns the forging of the Sampo (a magic sword or some such). Klami already set this to music in his Kalevala Suite, and Aho gently reminds us of this in the final dance.
The work has four movements, glitteringly scored for large orchestra, and it culminates in an "all stops out" Dance of the Winds and Fires (with electronic assistance in the wind department) that goes far toward establishing Aho's claim to be considered one of the greatest currently active writers for orchestra. If you like big, colorful, late-Romantic music with real rhythm and drive, then you will find this disc totally thrilling, particularly given the outstanding, 100 percent committed performances by the forces that gave the premieres of both works. If there's any justice in the universe, this work will be performed everywhere. The state-of-the-art sonics are the icing on the cake. Give yourself a real musical treat: buy this, put it on at high volume, and wallow in it for an hour or so. It's what CD collecting is all about. [3/23/2004]
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 11 by Kalevi Aho
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble,
Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1998; Finland
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