SIBELIUS: Kullervo, Op. 7. Finandia, Op. 26. KORTEKANGAS: Migrations (2014).
LISZT: 15 Songs
BORUP-JORGENSEN: Portal for Percussion and Organ, Op. 182. Flor
Organ IV. Strophen for Alto and Organ, Op. 39. Für Cembalo und Organ,
133.2. Kalligrafier. Op. 116. Organo per Due, Op. 133.1.Trilogi for Bass
and Organ, Op. 154.4. For Orgel XI, Op. 141. Winter Music, Op. 113.2.
Sibelius composed his large-scale choral masterpiece Kullervo while a student 1913-1915, basing it on Finland's national epic the Kalevala. Kullervo is the only truly tragic character in Finnish mythology. His entire family was killed by his uncle except fir his mother who escaped with her unborn child. In his youth he was sold as a slave and swore vengeance. Finally, reunited with his kinfolk, he meets and seduces a young girl who actually is his long-lost sister. Kullerrvo goes to war against his uncle and slaughters the entire tribe, eventually killing himself. Although well received at its premiere, Kullervo received few performances until 1970 when Paavo Berglund presented it (and recorded it (REVIEW). There are three fine recordings on SACD: Segerstam (REVIEW), Spano (REVIEW), and Rasilainen (REVIEW).Vänska also recorded it for BIS with the Lahti Symphony.
The second disk in this release offers a contemporary Finnish work called Migrations. About a century and a half ago, many Finnish immigrated to the U.S. settling mostly in Minnnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. To commemorate this event, the Minnesota Orchestra and its conductor commissioned composer Olli Kortekangas to compose a work on the theme of migration, intended to be performed at a concert with Kullervo, which took place in February 2016 in Minnesota's Orchestra Hall, preserved on these disks. Kortekangas (b. 1955) is a distinguished Finnish composer who has written music for chamber ensemble, orchestra, solo instrumental works, and music for chorus. Little of his music has been recorded. Immigration has a text is by Minnesota-based poet Sheila Packa, who is of Finnish descent. There are four sung movements separated by three orchestral interludes. Titles are Two Worlds, Resurrection, The Man Who Lived in a Tree, and Music That We Breathe. The cycle surely is a lovely score, and orchestration is imaginative with a number of challenging solo instrumental parts, particularly for the horn. It surely receives a fine performance here, but primary interest in this release is Vänska's Kullervo, his second of this masterpiece. The program ends with a majestic if rather slow performance of the most famous Finnish work ever written, Finlandia, heard here in the version for chorus and orchestra. Excellent audio, and complete texts are provided.
Franz Liszt composed about 70 songs and some of them are adaptations of his piano works. It sounds surprising to hear the Petrarch sonnett ssung. A wide selection of Liszt songs can be heard on this fine BIS SACD sung in four languages. These are superbly sung by Timothy Fallon, a fine tenor on the current Wagner scene. Fallon impressed in the recent Pentatone recording of Tristan and Isolde. He displays both power and sensitivity in these Liszt songs. Liszt's accompaniment t for the songs is not as technically demanding as many of his other works, but it does require a solid technique: Ammel Bushakevitz provides this to perfection. Ccomplete texts nd translations are provided. A quality release, beautifully recorded by the BIS engineers.
Imagine it is a stormy midnight and you hear weird, mysterious sounds played on the organ in a gloomy church. This, perhaps, is what you hear on this new disk of unusual organ music, a full SACD of works by Danish composer Axel Borup-Jørgensen(1924 - 2012). He composed profusely, orchestral works, chamber music, solo instruments, percussion, and various combinations thereof. Little of his music has been recorded. Here we have 75 minutes of his music for organ played by Jens E. Christiansen, with various other artists. Music is over the top by any standards, mysterious, alternating soft interludes with bombastic outbursts, and I doubt you will find much in the way of melody—most of this is aural contrast, and impresses in its own mysterious way. The disk opens and closes with music for percussion and organ that is LOUD .It surely is startling in its own way. We also have a concerto for harpsichord (strange writing for the instrument!), several organ solos and two works for vocalists with organ. CD notes describe all this. and provides texts. Excellent audio capturing the resonant acoustic of Vor Freiskers Church in Copenhagen last year, although percussion could have a bit more sizzle and definition. This is an intriguing unusual disk, a welcome addition to the catalog.
R.E.B. (January 2017)