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Aho: Symphony No 3; Mussorgsky / Vänskä, Lahti So, Et Al

Release Date: 04/22/2003 
Label:  Bis   Catalog #: 1186   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Kalevi AhoModest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Jaakko KuusistoMatti Salminen
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Kalevi Aho's Third Symphony foreshadows his later works that make ingenious use of various instruments in concertante form. While several of these quasi-concertos already have been issued as part of BIS's enterprising and valuable complete Aho edition--notably Symphonies Nos. 8 (organ) and 9 (trombone)--this earlier work for orchestra and violin, written in the 1970s and presented in absolutely terrific sound, appears as fresh as if it had been written yesterday.

A work that displays such an orgiastic panoply of sounds and moods is challenging to describe, but for simplicity, this symphony recalls Shostakovich and Nielsen in orchestration and Bartók in the solo passages.
Read more Flanked by long cadenzas in the outer movements (one mostly lyrical, the other wild), the violinist clearly has his work cut out for him; not only are the score's technical demands considerable, but the soloist must do battle with the orchestra and its arsenal of percussion. It's violin versus orchestra in the second and fourth movements--and that was part of Aho's point, as he refers to the "drama" ending in "catastrophe" during which the soloist is "drowned out."

The work possesses a neat logical balance, both within movements and overall. The first movement begins very softly with gentle strokes of the timpani, followed by the violin soloist's arching melody. Slowly winds, strings, and then percussion enter the fray and then gradually exit, leaving only the timpani. The frenetic second movement is dominated by the orchestra's furious dotted rhythms and inexorable drive. Ultimately the soloist admits "defeat" and does not play at all in the plaintive third movement, which is reserved for more conventional unison melody in the strings. In the final movement the soloist comes out swinging, straining to be heard in complex double-stopped passages and careening downward motifs, but is quickly suppressed by the clangorous accompaniment of tam-tam, snare, timpani, and bass drum, whose repeated thumps morph into a march. As the march subsides into the background, Aho hints at "reconciliation" between these forces by introducing two clarinets whose melody caresses the closing violin solo.

Aho's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death is a more subtle affair. He stays quite faithful to the original piano score and mainly enhances and builds upon the standard Rimsky-Korsakov/Glazunov orchestration. The most apparent differences are heard in the choice of instrumentation and in the more substantial and varied use of percussion, which makes death's knocking during the "Cradle Song" all the more bone-chilling. "The Field Marshal" opening is quite a bit more dynamic and emphatic but not twisted out of character. Matti Salminen gives a rather stern and icy reading, one that is not quite as idiomatic as, say, Christoff's famous version (recently re-released on EMI), but, as he possesses one of the more convincingly terrifying voices on the planet, his rendition is no less valid nor captivating.
--Michael Liebowitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 by Kalevi Aho
Performer:  Jaakko Kuusisto (Violin)
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971-1973; Finland 
Songs and dances of death by Modest Mussorgsky
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1875-1877; Russia 
Notes: Arranged: Kalevi Aho (1984) 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia Concertante No. 1": I. Andante (cadenza)
Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia Concertante No. 1": II. Prestissimo
Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia Concertante No. 1": III. Lento
Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia Concertante No. 1": IV. Presto (candenza)
Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) (orch. K. Aho): I. Cradle Song
Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) (orch. K. Aho): II. Serenade
Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) (orch. K. Aho): III. Trepak
Pesni i plyaski smerti (Songs and Dances of Death) (orch. K. Aho): IV. The Field Marshal

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