Leevi Madetoja: Symphony No. 2; Kullervo; Elegy / Helsinki PO, Storgards Mar12

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Tonal and ConsonantOrchestral
Ondine Record Label - Ondine: Mission:"to support new creative efforts in the field of contemporary music, and to showcase renditions by top-rank artists which bring a new dimension to established works of the classical repertoire."
Release date: 2013-01-29

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Leevi Madetoja: Symphony No. 2; Kullervo; Elegy / Helsinki PO, Storgards

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Leevi Madetoja's Kullervo, Op. 15 opens with a sforzando by strings and timpani followed by a loud, sustained tremolo and timpani roll. Horns enter in unison with a commanding call, trading back and forth, then growing softer, fainter, receding into the distance until the music has all but disappeared. It's a terrific opening to a splendid tone poem that I have enjoyed many times over. This Ondine CD also contains Madetoja's Symphony No. 2 and a popular student piece, Elegy, Op. 4/1.

Madetoja was a contemporary and student of Sibelius, and while his music shows that composer's influence, it is uniquely his. Central to Madetoja's orchestral output are his three symphonies. While his First Symphony was a critical success, the Second Symphony is the work that established Madetoja's position decisively among leading Finnish composers. The Second was written in 1918, during the Finnish Civil War, which left its mark on the music. The earlier movements are attractive if melancholic, but the work grows more edgy as it progresses. The third is anxious, jagged, with a sense of an impending calamity and the final movement, somber and mournful.

Listeners who enjoy Sibelius will want to hear this. John Storgårds leads the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in terrific performances and Ondine provides excellent sound.

Though not a recording of the same performance, the rest of Madetoja's Symphony No. 2 can be heard here.