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Dedicated to Juha Kangas and OCO

Dedicated to Juha Kangas and OCO

Alba Records  ABCD 414

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Kalevi Aho: 1st movement of Chamber Symphony No. 3
Onutè Narbutaitè: Oliko se perhonen? (Was there a butterfly?)
Erkki Salmenhaara: Elegia II for two string quartets, Elegia V for string orchestra
Einojuhani Rautavaara: Canto V 'Into the heart of light'
Pêteris Vasks: Musika Serena

Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra
Juha Kangas (conductor)

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Review by John Miller - October 21, 2017

The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra under its honorary conductor Jula Kangas, in a continuing sequence of SACD/CD recordings for Alba, continues to firmly root itself in Ostrobothnian soil, but now is regarded as "a world-class chamber orchestra". This disc celebrates the height of musical praise by having some work from important composers who have written personal and individual pieces dedicated to the Ostrobothnians. "Dedicated To" is the title of this SACD and the pieces making the dedication were recorded at Snellman Hall, Kokkola, on 27 May 2015, 30 May 2016, 31 May 2016 and 2 June 2016.

Kalevi Aho (b 1949) Chamber Symphony No. 3 (1995-96), first movement "Frozen Are The Restless Waters" 8:56.
Aho's Third Chamber Symphony is a hybrid; the first movement was originally written for Ostrobothnian strings only but it can be performed in the whole chamber symphony .The other movements are for alto saxophone and strings. In the first movement of the Symphony, swooping glissandi seem like sea birds wheeling above the sea; the waves are also moving intensively, then shimmer very quietly, building up in strength as if the sea was about to freeze. A massive crescendo, making sudden slashing dissonances, drops to a sudden hush, frozen enigmatic piece. At a great distance, harmonics are swallowed in silence along with the chordal darkness. This is definitely a movement which invites interpretations from the listener.

Onutė Narbutaitė (b 1956) is a Lithuanian composer; she can be called a representative for contemporary Baltic music. 'Was there a butterfly' (2013) is the longest (17:56) in the dedicated collection. The mention of a butterfly was not realistic, but a thought made after the completion of the score. In open stillness comes ethereal soulfulness with sequences of deep chords. The two double bass are wonderfully resonant, especially with their pizzicato.

Erkki Salmenhaara (1941-2002), Elegia II for two string quartets - 1963. Salmenhaara was regarded as a ground-setter in the 1960s. The piece begins amusingly with a pizzicato conversation between the two quartets, then bowing with an anguished, quiet section until you are startled by the development of a blazing set of textures.

Elegia V for string orchestra (1995) - very short, a mere 3:41. Salmenhaara gives us music in slow walking pace, sounding dark, rich chords, deeply emotional and pulsing with sorrow.

Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016): Into the heart of light (2011), Canto V, for string orchestra; 11:43. A commission from the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra for its 40th anniversary
The composer explained the additional title of Canto V by alluding to the process by which a work of art gradually emerges, during creation, as light dawns on the creative artist. Much of the music in this piece is dominated by slow-moving, richly melodic lines, mainly in the violins. The warmth and richness of the material grows gradually, almost as if made in late Romantic style. The intensity of the piece by the strings and Kangas' control is excellent. A gorgeous piece.

Pēteris Vasks (born 1946, Latvia), Musica serena (2015),10:14
Here Vasks honours his long-standing friend and Finnish conductor Juha Kangas on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Since the early 1990s, Kangas has conducted the premières of many of Vasks’ numerous works for string orchestra with his own Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra. The seven-minute Musica serena spans a wide dynamic range. It builds up from softly shimmering violin harmonics in the ‘Andante cantabile’ to the central fortissimo of the ‘Maestoso’ section, gradually regaining its calm in the pianissimo leading into the harmonic notes of the work’s conclusion. Another piece which is effectively late Romantic and therefore deeply emotional.

This wide range of short pieces assigned for the Ostrobothnians has been taken very deeply by the players and conductor, particularly demonstrating their superb mastery of technical efforts assigned to their instruments. Simon Fox-Gál, one of the best recording engineers and editors in the world, has neatly made the 4 different sessions in the fine acoustics of Snell Hall in Kokkola (in Ostrobothnia, of course) sound as if they were done in one session. 5.1multi is much the best way to hear this disc; then the 3D display of the various instruments adds a great deal of interest and bring forward the detailed tones of pizzicato, slapping strings, make harmonics and other sounds which can be made from strings.

The increasing number of SACD collectors for our Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/ALBA recordings will certainly want to have this, as will any who are looking to learn more about Finland and other Baltic composers.

Copyright © 2017 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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