NORDGREN: Concerto for Clarinet, Folk Instruments and Small Orchestra. Symphony No. 1, Op. 20.
Christoffer Sundqvist, clarinet. Anna-Karin Korbonen, kantele. Illka Heinonen, bowed harp & jouhikka. Markku Lepistö, two-row accordion & kaksirivinen haitari / Finnish Radio Symphony Orch/John Kangas, cond.
ALBA SACD ABCD 359 TT: 62:16
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HINDEMITH: Sonata for Oboe and Piano. BRITTEN: Temporal Variations. DORÁTI: Duo Concertante. HAAS: Suite for Oboe and Piano, Op. 17. BEN-HAIM: Three Songs Without Words
Alexei Ogrintchouk, oboe/Leonid Ogrintchouk, piano
BIS SACD 2023 TT: 64:47
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ORCHESTRAL CLASSICS PLAYED ON THE ORGAN
DEBUSSY: La Mer. RAVEL: Excerpts from Daphnis et Chloé, Noble and Sentimental Waltzes, Pavane pour ue infane défunte, La Valse, Boléro
Gunnar Idenstam, organ
BIS SACD 2049 TT: 71:46

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Finnish composer Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008) was highly regarded on Finland's contemporary music scene. He wrote profusely, his works including two operas, many symphonic works with 8 symphonies, many concertos for various instruments, works for chamber ensembles, as well as music for solo piano and voice. This Alba SACD offers two early works, Symphony No. 1 dating from 1974, and his Concerto for Clarinet, Folk Instruments and Small Orchestra composed in 1970. Both works are dark and dissonant with only an occasional glimpse of non-tragedy. Nordgren often uses trombone glissandi, bells and percussion. The concerto is an odd piece with its scoring for various folk instruments, most of which seem very much in the background producing scraping sounds. There are five movements to the concerto, three for the symphony. With the titles Marssi (March), Concerto Grosso (Caprice), and Epilogue. It is based on many Finnish folk tunes, and one would think they were not a very happy lot—again darkness pervades and the symphony ends softly. All of this music must be incredibly difficult to play, and these performances surely present the music at its best. As usual with Alba, audio is excellent although not particularly surround. If you'd like the sample the contemporary Finnish avant-garde, here's your opportunity.I wlll pass on future listening.

Alexei Ogrintchouk is a spectacular master of his instrument; he would have to be to be appointed Principal Oboe of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and you can watch him perform on many of the RCOA videos. Now you can hear him play, superbly of course, a program of 20th Century music for his instrument accompanied by his brother Leonid. This site recently praised a BIS SACD of Mozart that also featured the two (REVIEW). Now we have their impeccable performances of the repertory listed above. Nothing contemporary here; the most recent work is Antal Doráti's Duo Concertante written in 1983. This is an outstanding disk, with beautifully balanced audio.

Swedish concert organist Gunnar Idenstam (b. 1961) has a distinguished career as soloist, composer, and is known for his interest in folk tunes. He already has to his credit several fine BIS recordings. He always has been fascinated by the possibility of organ performances of orchestral music, and some of his efforts can be heard on this intriguing new disk, music of Debussy and Ravel. He plays the large 1912/2003 Stahlhuth / Jann organ of Église Saint-Martin de Dudelange, Luxembourg, and the instrument has mighty sonorities, particularly in the low registers, all beautifully captured by the engineers in these recordings made September 2013. Are these a success? Not really, but interesting. Most effective are the quieter works, but the three major pieces just don't work. The rich orchestration cannot be duplicated on an organ, although one must admire Idenstam's virtuosity and imagination. This is one of the slowest Bolero's ever recorded (15:58) and the ending is one big wash of sound. Perhaps some listeners will wish to investigate this new view of this music.

R.E.B. (July 2014)

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