EÖTVOS: Levitation NIELSEN: Clarinet Concerto, Op. 57. SALLINEN: Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 91.
Christoffer Sundqvist, clarinet; Tommi Aalto, viola, Finnish Radio Symphony Orch/Hannu Lintu/Ijji Jany, cond.

TIENSUU: Alma III: Soma. Mind. Mood. Alma II.
Juhani Lagerspelz, piano; Tampere Philharmonic Orch/Susanna Mälkki, cond.
ALBA SACD ABCD 224 TT: 65:19

PUUMALA: Chainsprings, Seeds of Time.
Roland Pöntinben, piano; Tampere Philharmonic Orch/Hannu Lintu, cond.
ALBA SACD ABCD 319 TT: 64:34

HAKIM: Paskeblomst for Strings. Concerto No. 1 for Organ and Strings. Esquisses Grégoriennes. Concerto No. 3 for Organ and Strings.
Jon Lehtola, organ; St. Michel Strings/Petri Komulainen, cond.
ALBA SACD ABDD 285 TT: 76:43

Hungarian-born Peter Eötvos (1944) is an acknowledged master conductor of cutting-edge music, with about 3 dozen recordings, mostly of Berio, Stockhausen and other contemporary composers including many whose work is little-known. His 2007 Levitation is scored for the unusual combination of two clarinets, accordion and strings, and has four movements ending with "Petrushka's resurrection," a hallucinatory vision of the final pages of Stravinsky's ballet. Not quite as challenging for the listener is Aulis Sallinen's 24-minute concerto scored for the odd combination of clarinet, viola and chamber orchestra. The composer has a very specific program for the three movements of this unusual work, The Dolphin's Lament, The Game, and Adagio of the Bull, and his program notes are very specific as to their meaning. The only standard work on this disk is Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto which receives a terrific performance from the young soloist, Christoffer Sundqvist. CD notes provide detailed information about all of this music, and the recorded sound is excellent.

Jukka Tiensuu (b. 1948) wears many hats. He is a leading Finnish composer in the contemporary music field, and also is known as a pianist, harpsichordist, conductor and teacher. This intriguing disk contains four works composed 1996-2000, featuring as the major work a piano concerto called Mind which has four movements: Earth (Reflection), Air (Play), Water (Dream), and Fire (Passion). We also have Alma II (Lumo)(1996), Alma III (Soma) (1998), and Mood (1999). Tiensuu calls his music "deliberately ambiguous" and provides no information about what he intended his music to convey. However, we can luxuriate in his incredible imagination, sensitive cascades of sound and weaving electronic and computer-generated sounds into his music. All of the music on this disk is a pleasant challenge for the listener, and pianist Luhani Logerspetz is to be commended for his brilliant performance in the concerto. Audio is as good as it gets. A memorble recording indeed.

Finnish composer Vali-Matti Puumala (b. 1965), now a professor at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, is on the cutting edge of Finnish music, and highly respected. His Piano Concerto, called Seeds of Time, was awarded the Teosto Prize in 2005. It had been commissioned by four Finnish orchestras for pianist Roland Pöntingen. The 40-minute work is scored for several solo instruments: piano, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, timpani and violin. The three movements (unfortunately not separately tracked) are called Crowd, Haste, and The Arms of the Night. At the end of the final movement, the work just fades into nothingness.The work is intricately scored almost on a chamber music scale with various instruments who play brief usually abrasive statements. The work really isn't much of a piano concerto; most of the time the pianist has little to do. Chainsprings is one of three works relating to time; the others are Chant Chains and Chains of Camenae. It is orchestrated with a wide variety of instruments, often folk-related, and in varied styles. For most listeners, Puumala's music will be a great challenge, but surely a strong case is made for it in these superb performances that have been beautifully recorded with an exceptionally wide dynamic range.

Music of Lebanese-French organist, composer and improvisor Naji Hakim (b. 1955) is mild indeed compared with the composers listed above. During his career he worked with Jean Langlais and Olivier Messiaen, and won a number of prizes for his compositions. Paskeblomst, a Danish chorale composed by Carl Nielsen, is a set of 10 brief dances that could well have been composed by Benjamin Britten. The five-movement solo organ work Esquisses Grégoriennes is reverential in nature. The two organ concertos, each in three movements with vigorous outer sections, are pleasant enough. Jan Lehtola is the organist in the works that call for the instrument, and the fine chamber orchestra supports him admirably. Engineers have captured rich sonorities of the Paschen Organ in Juva, Finland, with uncommon fidelity.

R.E.B. (October 2012)