Overtures from Finland - Gamba
Chandos CHSA 5336
Classical - Orchestral
Jean Sibelius: Karelia Overture, Op. 10
Uuno Klami: Nummisuutarit
Erkki Melartin: Overture to ''Prinsessa Ruusunen'', Op. 22 No. 30
Leevi Madetoja: Comedy Overture, Op. 53
Armas Jarnefelt: Ouverture lyrique, Præludium
Ernst Mielck: Dramatische Ouvertüre, Op. 6
Selim Palmgren: Overture from ''Tuhkimo-Sarja'', Op. 21
Robert Kajanus: Overture sinfonica
Heino Kaski: Prélude, Op. 7 No. 1
Rumon Gamba (conductor)
From the middle of the nineteenth century there was a blossoming of nationalism within the creative arts – very notably in music – in Finland that reflected the political mood in the country. From an international perspective, the dominant stature of Sibelius can often overshadow the wide-ranging works of his peers – something that this album goes some way to redressing. Robert Kajanus was the leading figure in Finnish music before Sibelius became established. His Overtura sinfonica is a late work, from 1926, which epitomises his style. Armas Järnefelt was a friend and fellow student of Sibelius, and eventually became his brother-in-law. Erkki Melartin wrote his incidental music for Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) for a production of Zachris Topelius’s fairy-tale play at the Finnish Theatre. Ernst Mielck (who cruelly died aged twenty-one) was mentored by Robert Kajanus, who also conducted the première of Mielck’s Dramatische Ouvertüre in Helsinki. Selim Palmgren was an acclaimed pianist and composer, and was eventually appointed Professor of Composition at the Eastman School of Music. The overture from his Tuhkimo-Sarja (Cinderella Suite) is particularly exotic. Another pianist-composer, Heino Kaski, spent his career as a teacher, leaving little time for composition. His Prélude is an orchestration of one of his most popular piano miniatures. The work of Uuno Klami is closer to European modernism, reflecting his studies in Paris and Vienna. Leevi Madetoja was perhaps the most talented of Sibelius’s small number of private pupils. His Comedy Overture is an orchestral tour-de-force, with echoes of Richard Strauss. He was a native of Oulu, the home of the Oulu Sinfonia, conducted here by its chief conductor, Rumon Gamba.
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- Armas Järnefelt: Ouverture lyrique
- Armas Järnefelt: Praeludium
- Robert Kajanus: Overture sinfonica
- Heino Kaski: Prélude, Op. 7 No. 1
- Uuno Klami: Nummisuutarit
- Leevi Madetoja: Comedy Overture, Op. 53
- Erkki Melartin: Prinsessa Ruusunen - Overture, Op. 22 No. 30
- Ernst Mielck: Dramatische Ouvertüre, Op. 6
- Selim Palmgren: Tuhkimo-Sarja - Overture, Op. 21
- Jean Sibelius: Karelia - Overture, Op. 10
Review by Graham Williams - September 1, 2023
The Oulu Sinfonia's performances on this captivating SACD titled 'Overtures from Finland' demonstrates the remarkable talents of Finland's northernmost symphony orchestra. With a programme highlighting compositions from the late 19th and early 20th centuries by nine Finnish composers, this collection offers a rich exploration of the nation's musical heritage. While Jean Sibelius stands as the most recognizable name among them, this compilation sheds light on the lesser-known works that shaped the Finnish musical landscape. It's a testament to their collective skill that Sibelius, often regarded as the pinnacle of Finnish composition, actually emerged from a cohort of equally talented contemporaries.
Opening with Sibelius's 'Karelia Overture,' a piece not often heard in the concert hall compared to its more famous counterpart, the 'Karelia Suite,' the album sets a tone of stirring energy and melodic delights. The performance, led by the accomplished Rumon Gamba, the orchestra’s Chief Conductor since January 2022, who has a strong affinity with Nordic music certainly captures the celebratory style of this composition. (Wirén: Orchestral Works - Gumba) and Viðar, Ísólfsson: Icelandic Works for the Stage - Gamba)
The remainder of this programme's attraction lies in its diverse selection of composers, including Uuno Klami, Erkki Melartin, Leevi Madetoja, Ernst Mielck, Selim Palmgren and Armas Järnefelt, whose familiar 'Praeludium' of 1900 serves as a fitting finale. Each composer contributes a distinct voice to the collection, showcasing the astonishing range of Finnish music during this era.
Listeners will have their own favourites among the ten works on this disc, but two that made a particular impression on this listener were The ‘Overture sinfonica’(1926) by Robert Kajanus – perhaps better known outside Finland as a conductor and champion of Sibelius than a composer – and Ernst Mielck’s ‘Dramatische Ouvertüre’ (1898). Mielck tragically died of tuberculosis just before his 22nd birthday and Gamba’s thrilling account of this score gives us a taste of what might have been if the composer’s life had not been so cruelly curtailed.
Sonically, the SACD's quality is in the capable hands of Ingo Petry from Take 5 Music Production, with sound engineer Christian Starke ensuring the utmost fidelity. The recording venue, the Madetoja Concert Hall at the Oulu Music Centre in Finland, boasts a clean acoustic that beautifully captures the orchestra's dynamic range as well as their spirited performances.
Daniel M Grimley's meticulous liner notes provide in-depth insight into the compositions and the historical context in which they were created.
Copyright © 2023 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net