Notes and Editorial Reviews
Juha Kangas, cond; Ostrobothnian Ch O
ALBA 330 (67:41)
St. Paul Suite.
Pictures of Rural Past.
The theme on this latest release by the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra is that of folk music in a classical context, not distanced (at least, musically) by sentimentality or stereotype. The selection of music cleverly includes one standard work, the
St. Paul Suite
, presumably to draw in a broad audience, and a variety of pieces not generally known except to specialists and reviewers with bizarrely omnivorous tastes for classical content.
My own knowledge of the other compositions on this disc only extends to the Rautavaara, Rangstrom, and Weiner. Rautavaara’s
(The Fiddlers) dates back to his early folk-influenced phase, in 1952. Its five miniatures are snapshots of experiences after a group of famous fiddlers arrive in 18th-century Närbö. In contrast to the Holst which was intended as a training exercise for an orchestra he led at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in London,
is genially rowdy in its outer movements, and more than slightly animist in one of the others, the eerily effective “Kopsin Jonas,” as the fiddler in question plays on Midsummer’s Night for the nearby forest.
(Fiddler’s Spring) was by contrast a very late work of Ture Rangström. Its three movements present the mythic archetype of the fiddler as a shadowy creature, walking halfway between this world and night-nature. Rangström both harnesses and subverts expectations of the late 19th-century idiom of the string serenade, producing something that veers between comfortable and chill with his usual ease. In its turn, Weiner’s delightful Divertimento isn’t quite the “relatively straightforward arrangement” of Hungarian and Hungarian-Romany folk tunes as described in the liner notes, but it does refrain from romanticizing the harmonies, and the use of counterpoint in the form of imitation lends variety to the mix.
For the rest, despite being in one movement, Larsson’s
(Folk-song Night) is very close to the late 19th-century idiom of the string serenade, and would fit very well alongside similar pieces by Dvo?ák, Suk, and Tchaikovsky, among others. Rudolf Tobias was a Rimsky-Korsakov pupil. His
, originally the slow movement from his String Quartet No. 2, was transcribed by Tubin for string orchestra. The central section is the most interesting, but the whole piece makes very effective use of quartet textures, much as you’d expect. Finally, Nordgren’s
Juvia maaseudun menniesyydestä
(Pictures of Rural Past) is subtitled, “Adaptations of Finnish folk tunes for strings and harp.” Aside from reproducing the tunes monodically with good results, he frequently utilizes harmonic underpinnings that really do sound sentimentally evocative. The occasional slide and tonal cluster don’t bring much to the mix, and feel out of place. The fourth movement, “A Young Man’s Farewell on Leaving America,” with its bookends of arctic despair surrounding a pleasant Irish fiddle tune, is well worth the hearing, as is the final movement, “The Fiddler,” despite being a bit long for its material.
The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra demonstrates an ability to color that ranges from ripely romantic to harsh, to raucous. Their typically light vibrato and acute ear for pitch allows for some wonderful examples of “bent” notes as required. (Although they previously issued
on Ondine 983 more than a decade ago, this is a new recording of it.) The resonant hall in no way covers up the clarity of the parts, or the textural blend Juha Kangas gets from his musicians. Strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Fiddler's Springtime by Ture Rangström
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1943; Sweden
Venue: The Snellman Hall, Kokkola
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs.
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