New albums in shades of dark and bright

BIS Records has released two new CDs of Finnish contemporary music. Composer Sebastian Fagerlund’s profile album Darkness in Light (BIS-2093) includes the Violin Concerto (2012) featuring violinist Pekka Kuusisto, as well as the award-winning orchestral work Ignite (2010). Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Hannu Lintu.

Bright piano sounds from earlier decades can be heard on pianist Sonja Fräki’s recording of the Kalevi Aho piano works (BIS-2106). Aho’s solo piano oeuvre includes six works to date, ranging from the extensive early work, Nineteen preludes from 1965-68 to the virtuosic Sonata (1980) to the small-scale piano pieces for young pianists. The CD embodies Fräki’s long-time commitment with Aho’s piano music, which is also the subject of her forthcoming doctoral thesis at the Sibelius Academy.  

The Finnish record company Ondine has released a CD of works by Kaija Saariaho in January 2015. The album includes two vocal works sung by soprano Karen Vourc’h: the orchestral version of Quatre instants, as well as Émilie Suite, a 25-minute work based on Saariaho’s monodrama opera Émilie. The third work on the new album is the string orchestra version of Terra Memoria, originally a string quartet commissioned originally by the Emerson String Quartet. Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg is conducted by Marko Letonja.

The music of Jean Sibelius is also getting a lot of new recordings with the composer’s 150th jubilee year. Among the interesting new Finnish releases are two albums by cellist Jussi Makkonen. One of them accompanies a children’s book on Sibelius, titled Melody Forest and published in Finnish, Swedish and English versions. The other one takes the listener to the musical atmosphere of Sibelius’ honeymoon in Karelia. In addition to Makkonen, the CD features Nizig Azezian (piano), Annastiina Tahkola (mezzo soprano), Esa Ruuttunen (baritone) and Susanna Mieskonen-Makkonen (violin).