Author Topic: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)  (Read 89818 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 61645
  • Ottorino Respighi (1879 - 1936)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #260 on: May 10, 2022, 10:49:53 AM »
Thanks!
I just went through Qobuz and made a playlist of the complete cycle (minus 6) plus a bunch of concertos, song cycles, chamber works, etc. My intention is to slowly listen or relisten to the complete Aho corpus and take detailed notes on my impressions.

I admire your tenacity in tackling that Aho project! He's an amazing composer. Looking forward to your notes and when you're done, please post them all here!
“I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.” - Gustav Mahler

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 23069
    • Brian's blog
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #261 on: May 11, 2022, 11:32:09 AM »
(all notes based on BIS recordings unless noted)

Symphony No. 1: Kalevi Aho's symphony cycle begins with a quiet, almost still fugato for strings. It's a surprising debut and it means his first symphony begins not with boldness or vigorous youth or proud declarations or showing off, but with mystery.

The symphony as a whole portends a lot of elements of the composer's style: an air of mystery, an emotional arc that is hard to describe in words, eccentric orchestration choices (piccolo duet, percussion but no timpani I think?), parts which sound like they do not fit together but somehow do. In short, there's a scherzo dance led by solo violin which evokes Sibelius, then a fast movement which directly quotes Bach, then another fugal section to end, all in a kind of understated tonality.

The second movement dance eventually gets "stuck" in repetition, like a stuck record player. Ultimately it's an interesting but not essential piece, 28:30 in length, a show of the invention and potential to come. This was a student work, intended as a string quartet before his teacher - Rautavaara - suggested that it was orchestral in scope.

Couplings:
Silence: This title is more accurate than usual, as it took until 0:38 before I heard anything.  ;D a much more "pure sound" piece than the symphony, it explores effects, textures, and realistic evocations of various ambient noises from life. There are trumpets on opposite ends of the stage for a stereo effect. Kind of a typical "friendly modernist" 5 minute concert opener. The last 45 seconds are just a single high-screechy clarinet note.

Silence was composed as a lead-in to the...

Violin Concerto: The beginning melody immediately reminds me of the modernist lyricism of a piece like the Berg concerto, where the shape of the melodies and the harmonies are cold, but the violinist's tone is somehow warm and reassuring. There are prominent euphonium solos (!) as the music progresses. After a long violent orchestral episode, the soloist gets a cadenza with occasional percussion interjections.

The second and third movements show more of a sense of fun and play. Instrumental interactions are on a smaller scale, rather than Big Angry Orchestra, and the violin virtuoso work is on a less overtly flashy, more playful scale. The final "tempo di valse" is about as far from Viennese as you can get, and it ultimately disintegrates into a nocturnal atmosphere where the soloist, violin muted, duets with harps and other late-night instruments. The ending is basically inaudible.

This is a well crafted work in a style I personally don't love. That's just me!

Symphony No. 2: This is a well crafted work in a style I DO love. Like "the Mystery of Time" or the first movement of DSCH 10, it's a big long single arc from a quiet beginning which establishes the motives to a loud, fast climax, and then back down again to a quiet ending which recalls the pressures and tensions of the earlier music. It's sculpted with supreme beauty - I thought of Martinu slow movements in addition to Sibelius 4 and 7 - and is immediately attractive and gripping.

In this sense, it is an ideal intro to Aho, although I don't know if that is the case given how rapidly and how multifariously his style would evolve in the decades to come.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 61645
  • Ottorino Respighi (1879 - 1936)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #262 on: May 11, 2022, 11:36:31 AM »
Great write-ups, Brian. Looking forward to more of them. You should do a blog of your musical musings and I know that's what a review could be for, but the structure could be looser and, ultimately, more fun perhaps.
“I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.” - Gustav Mahler

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 23069
    • Brian's blog
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #263 on: May 12, 2022, 12:15:00 PM »
Symphony No. 3: The first of the concerto symphonies, this one has extensive violin solos in all but one movement. The effect at first is to remind you of the Shostakovich violin concertos, but eventually it reminds me more of the Shostakovich symphonies, especially 7, 8, 11. The ones that evoke oppression and violence and the hushed, fearful response to it.

This is most true of the middle movements; the second builds to a humongous, absolutely awesome climax of great intensity, and then as a backlash the third is all slow, quiet, and mournful. (With no solo.) In the finale, the solo violin duets with martial snare drumming. The resulting piece is compelling and although it does not have a "Resistance" or political theme, a storyline could easily be imagined. (The violin is the individual, the orchestra the state.)

Considering all that, and the slightly Russian bent of the music, the orchestrated Mussorgsky songs are a perfect accompaniment. Aho's work is unobtrusive, and superb - not what Mussorgsky might have done, but not something that would annoy him either. A real meeting of minds.

My final listen for the week is the Chinese Songs off the Symphony 4 album. I already knew and loved this work, where the songs play continuously without break and the language is sweepingly vocal, lyrical, and lush. This time I detected more of the Chinoiserie musical cues than I'd heard before. It's thankfully not caricatured, just accented. Very different from usual Aho.

@ MI - thanks! These composer threads suit me well because these notes are mainly for my own memory. I'll often go through the works of someone like Aho, Tubin, or Rubbra and then, a month later, forget which ones I like  ;D . So these notes primarily are for my own records and to encourage future listening. Any discussion and conversation and dialogue that they inspire is a delightful bonus, like getting dessert afterwards.

Offline relm1

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1731
  • Location: California
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #264 on: May 12, 2022, 03:00:01 PM »
Symphony No. 3: The first of the concerto symphonies, this one has extensive violin solos in all but one movement. The effect at first is to remind you of the Shostakovich violin concertos, but eventually it reminds me more of the Shostakovich symphonies, especially 7, 8, 11. The ones that evoke oppression and violence and the hushed, fearful response to it.

This is most true of the middle movements; the second builds to a humongous, absolutely awesome climax of great intensity, and then as a backlash the third is all slow, quiet, and mournful. (With no solo.) In the finale, the solo violin duets with martial snare drumming. The resulting piece is compelling and although it does not have a "Resistance" or political theme, a storyline could easily be imagined. (The violin is the individual, the orchestra the state.)

Considering all that, and the slightly Russian bent of the music, the orchestrated Mussorgsky songs are a perfect accompaniment. Aho's work is unobtrusive, and superb - not what Mussorgsky might have done, but not something that would annoy him either. A real meeting of minds.

My final listen for the week is the Chinese Songs off the Symphony 4 album. I already knew and loved this work, where the songs play continuously without break and the language is sweepingly vocal, lyrical, and lush. This time I detected more of the Chinoiserie musical cues than I'd heard before. It's thankfully not caricatured, just accented. Very different from usual Aho.

@ MI - thanks! These composer threads suit me well because these notes are mainly for my own memory. I'll often go through the works of someone like Aho, Tubin, or Rubbra and then, a month later, forget which ones I like  ;D . So these notes primarily are for my own records and to encourage future listening. Any discussion and conversation and dialogue that they inspire is a delightful bonus, like getting dessert afterwards.

Though I haven't commented, just wanted to say I enjoy your travelogue and find them spot on (so far at least).  Interested to keep reading as you encounter these works.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 61645
  • Ottorino Respighi (1879 - 1936)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #265 on: May 12, 2022, 06:01:10 PM »
Another fine write-up, Brian. Keep 'em coming! 8)

You've actually inspired me to start writing some notes for myself about particular works that impressed me and ones that I need to go back and listen to again. I might even start my own blog just to record some of these notes.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2022, 06:20:31 PM by Mirror Image »
“I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.” - Gustav Mahler

Offline Maestro267

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2625
  • Location: Wales
  • Currently Listening to:
    Myaskovsky, Schnittke, Pettersson and others
Re: Kalevi Aho(born 1949)
« Reply #266 on: May 16, 2022, 10:34:20 AM »
Silence: This title is more accurate than usual, as it took until 0:38 before I heard anything. 


Dammit BIS...  ;D