KALEVI AHO (b.1949): Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Chamber Orchestra (Anders Paulsson [sax], Lapland Chamber Orchestra; John Storgårds), Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn and Piano (Väinö Jalkanen [piano], members of the Lapland CO), Solo I for Violin (Jaakko Kuusisto).
Catalogue Number: 11T058
Format: SACD hybrid
Description: The Soprano Saxophone Concerto is the 22nd of the remarkable series of, to date, 28 concerti by Aho which share the common feature of sounding wholly individual and quite unlike one another and, due to the composer's habitual immersion in the idioms and possibilities of each instrument (he famously borrowed a double bass and learnt to play it to assist his writing for it in its concerto [02P012]), sounding entirely natural and expertly written for the soloist. The concerto emphasises the instrument's lyrical qualities, opening with a long unbroken melody backed only by slow, quiet pedal points, which leads into a lively and virtuosic presto with the customary Shostakovich-like turns of phrase. The movement's real cadenza makes much use of multiphonics before the fast music briefly returns and abruptly stops. The slow movement, 'mysterious and lethargic', recaptures the mood of the opening of the first, except that the soloist's mournful melody is now clouded by micro-intervals. The finale begins with ominous ticking which moves ever closer in a sinister mechanical march decorated with solo arabesques. A fleeting, shadowy, scurrying presto ensues, and the soloist ends the work with cantabile musings which evaporate into thin air. The Quintet was written for the same unusual instrumentation as Mozart K.452. Perhaps partly because of this the work is very tonal, and in places has an almost neoclassical feel, though the harmonic language is much closer to Shostakovich than Mozart (and this even extends to references to the DSCH motif, familiar from many of Aho's works). The first movement is lyrical and melancholy, the second a frenetically motoric toccata, the third a mysterious nocturne; the finale an unbuttoned 'Burlesco' with something of the circus about it. The violin was Aho's first instrument, and Solo I was the first of his works for solo instruments intended to fully exploit their capabilities. If extracts from Le sacre, followed by a wild Nordic folk dance were transcribed for solo violin the result might sound like this performer's nightmare (and audience's delight).