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Top ten Finnish orchestral works


A personal selection -
excluding Sibelius works

Among Finnish composers Sibelius is in a class of his own and his major works - seven symphonies, violin concerto and symphonic poems - would fill up both the top ten and the next ten list of Finnish orchestral music. So this list of my favourites is dedicated to other Finnish composers and their fine compositions, which in my view also deserve international attention and recognition.
 
Arto Sakari Korpinen

Top ten in alphabetical order


Einar Englund:
Piano Concerto no. 1
 
I   Allegro moderato
II  Larghissimo
III Allegro moderato come cadenza - Allegro assai

Composed 1955.

  • Niklas Sivelöv, piano
    Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
    Jorma Panula

    (+ Englund: Symphony no. 2 "The Blackbird", Symphony no. 4 "Nostalgic")

    Naxos 8.553758 F

Einar Englund and his works in a nutshell.

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Uuno Klami:
Kalevala Suite
 
I   The Creation of the Earth
II  The Sprout of Spring
III Terhenniemi
IV  Cradle Song for Lemminkäinen 
V   The Forging of the Sampo

Symphonic suite based on Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. Final version with five movements completed 1943.

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Osmo Vänskä

    (+ Klami: The Cobblers on the Heath Overture, Theme with seven variations and coda for cello and orchestra)

    Bis CD-676

  • Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Leif Segerstam

    (+ Klami: Sea Pictures, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto no. 2, All'ouverture, Cheremissian Fantasy for cello and orchestra)

    Finlandia Records 4509-99968-2 (2 cds)

Uuno Klami and his works in a nutshell.

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Joonas Kokkonen:
Music for String Orchestra
 
I   Moderato - Più lento - Tempo I
II  Allegro molto - Poco più lento - Tempo I
III Adagio religioso
IV  Allegro

Composed 1957.

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Ulf Söderblom

    (+ Kokkonen: Symphony no. 1, The Hades of the Birds, song cycle)

    Bis CD-485

Joonas Kokkonen and his works in a nutshell.

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Leevi Madetoja:
Symphony no. 3
 
I   Andantino
II  Adagio
III Allegro non troppo
IV  Pesante, tempo moderato

Opus 55, composed 1926.

  • Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Jukka-Pekka Saraste

    (+ Madetoja: The Ostrobothnians Suite, Okon Fuoko Suite)

    Finlandia Records 4509-96867-2

  • Iceland Symphony Orchestra
    Petri Sakari

    (+ Madetoja: The Ostrobothnians Suite, Okon Fuoko Suite no. 1, Comedy Overture)

    Chandos CHAN 9036

Leevi Madetoja and his works in a nutshell.

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Aarre Merikanto:
Fantasy for Orchestra

Composed 1923.

  • Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Leif Segerstam

    (+ Merikanto: Violin Concertos nos. 2 and 4, Genesis, Pan, Symphonic Study, Notturno, Largo misterioso, Ten Pieces for orchestra, Konzertstück)

    Finlandia Records 4509-99970-2 (2 cds)

Aarre Merikanto and his works in a nutshell.

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Selim Palmgren:
Piano Concerto no. 2 "The River"

In one movement

Opus 33, composed 1913.

  • Juhani Lagerspetz, piano
    Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
    Jacques Mercier

    1. (+ Palmgren: Piano Concertos nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5)

      Finlandia Records 4509-95852-2 (2 cds)

    2. (+ Palmgren: Piano Concertos nos. 3 and 5)

      Finlandia Records 1576-53379-2

Selim Palmgren and his works in a nutshell.

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Väinö Raitio:
The Swans

Symphonic poem, composed 1919.

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Osmo Vänskä

    (+ Sibelius: Finlandia, Suite for violin and orchestra, Rautavaara: Cantus arcticus, Englund: The White Reindeer, Krohn: Odalisque, Klami: The Cyclist, Kajanus (arr.) March of the People of Pori, Pacius: Maamme (Our Country), the Finnish national anthem)

    Bis CD-575

  • Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Jukka-Pekka Saraste

    (+ Raitio: Fantasia poetica, Fantasia estatica, The Column Fountain, Antigone)

    Ondine ODE 790-2

Väinö Raitio and his works in a nutshell.

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Einojuhani Rautavaara:
Cantus arcticus,
concerto for birds and orchestra
 
I   The Bog
II  Melancholy
III Swans migrating

Composed 1972 for the first academic degree ceremony of the Oulu University, the new 'arctic' university in Finland.

Kalevi Aho, himself a composer, writes in the programme notes of the Ondine recording:

- The work is given a charming, ethereal dimension by the simple orchestral texture interwoven with a countrepoint of taped birdsong. As a result the northerly birds and the symphony orchestra engage in a constant dialogue.

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Osmo Vänskä

    (+ Sibelius: Finlandia, Suite for violin and orchestra, Raitio: The Swans, Englund: The White Reindeer, Krohn: Odalisque, Klami: The Cyclist, Kajanus (arr.) March of the People of Pori, Pacius: Maamme (Our Country), the Finnish national anthem)

    Bis CD-575

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Osmo Vänskä

    (+ Angel of Light, Dances with the Winds)

    Bis CD-1038

  • Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Max Pommer

    (+ Rautavaara: Symphonies nos. 4 and 5)

    Ondine ODE 747-2

  • Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Max Pommer

    (+ Rautavaara: Symphony no. 5, String Quatet no. 4)

    Catalyst 09026-62671-2

  • Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu

    (+ Piano Concerto no. 1, Symphony No. 3)

    Naxos 8.554147FIN

Einojuhani Rautavaara and his works in a nutshell.

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Einojuhani Rautavaara:
Symphony no. 7 "Angel of Light"
 
I   Tranquillo
II  Molto allegro
III Come un sogno
IV  Pesante - cantabile

Composed 1994.

Was commissioned by the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra and first performed in Bloomington, Indiana on the occasion of the orchestra's 25th anniversary in 1995.

Rautavaara himself writes in the programme notes of the Ondine recording:

- Angel of Light is a new link in the 'Angel Series' which began twenty years ago. Previous works include Angels and Visitations, the double bass concerto Angel of Dusk and now the symphony no. 7, Angel of Light.

- The fantasy world of this series has often been misunderstood. These angels do not stem from any children's tale: they are an archetype, one of mankind's oldest traditions and perennial companions. As C.G.Jung says, "nobody can stand the total loss of the archetype". It must follow us and we must follow it, even today, if we wish to control our lives and understand the world.

- It should, however, be clearly stated that these works have no 'programme'. They are absolute music by a composer who has experienced powerful archetypal associations - so powerful that a certain word or pair of words provided the impetus for a composition: "angels and visitations", and so forth.

  • Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
    Leif Segerstam

    (+ Rautavaara: Annunciations)

    Ondine ODE 869-2

  • Lahti Symphony Orchestra
    Osmo Vänskä

    (+ Cantus arcticus, Dances with the Winds)

    Bis CD-1038

Einojuhani Rautavaara and his works in a nutshell.

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Aulis Sallinen:
Symphony no. 1

In one movement

Composed 1971.

  • Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Okko Kamu

    (+ Sallinen: Chorali, Symphony no. 3, Cadenze, Elegy for Sebastian Knight, String Quartet no. 3)

    Bis CD-41

Aulis Sallinen and his works in a nutshell.

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