Finnish & Swedish Romantics: The Orchestral Music of Armas Järnefelt
STERLING CDS1021-2 [62:53]
This Finnish composer, conductor and pianist was brother-in-law to Jean Sibelius and wrote two miniatures that kept his name dancing on the right side of oblivion. The Ouverture lyrique is an affable little concert overture: cheery and untroubled by malign imps. It's an atmospheric Mendelssohnian piece with nationalistic ideals lofted along by some nice woodwind writing. It's not at all hot-headed. When it moves into vaguely stern territory it leans on Brahms. It takes a confident composer to do what Järnefelt does here: he ends the overture in relaxation rather than drama.
Korsholm is a dramatic symphonic poem for large orchestra, probably reflecting the fanciful medievalism of the 14th century Finnish court of that name. It has some strong Sibelian resonances in the woodwind writing, in accelerating storms and in a mysterious part for the harp. This music has some military elements and substantial sweeping romantic pages for the full string body. It ends in courtly grandeur.
The music from Sången om den eldröda blomman (Song of the Crimson Flower - what a title) was written for a Swedish film in 1919. This lively and enjoyable music has a very distinctive Sibelian sound especially in the Shooting the Rapids episode. Echoes of the Second Symphony can be heard. The busy and brief Fight scene has a few moments recalling the Lemminkäinen Suite. Then come three sections from Järnefelt's cantata: The Promised Land. The Introduction - Israel's Captivity is a quietly expressed triumph of measured melancholy; it’s inward, sincere and without dazzle. Elizabeth's Lament continues the mood with a concentrated oboe solo prominent. The disc ends in complete contrast with an attractive Dance - more exotic Massenet this time rather than Sibelius; after all Sibelius wrote an Oriental Dance for his music for Belshazzar's Feast. This is closer to lively commercial music; not quite as far as Ketèlbey but lunging in that direction. It would go well in any collection of Finnish light music.
The recorded sound is open and exciting with plenty of punch. There we have it: a cleverly balanced cross-section of Järnefelt's orchestral music. Everything here is a pleasure to hear whether nationalist drama, memorable miniatures or solemn gravitas. Your curiosity will be aroused and satisfied by this kindly, capable romantic music. Rob Barnett, Musicweb-International