ANTTI SAMULI HERNESNIEMI: ‘Compositions 1’ = Man playing on the shore; Poem; Ascending form – Antti Hernesniemi, electric piano – Savellyksia Records

ANTTI SAMULI HERNESNIEMI: ‘Compositions 1’ = Man playing on the shore; Poem; Ascending form – Antti Hernesniemi, electric piano – Savellyksia Records (Distr. by Phoenix Classical), 49:55 ***:

Finnish composer Antti Hernesniemi claims influences, both musically as well as philosophically, from a diverse group that includes Chopin, Scarlatti, the Beatles and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. This is easy to explain when one also discovers that Hernesniemi is quite the Renaissance figure, being a musician who is also a sculptor and whose main line of work is that of physician!

Strictly as a composer and based solely on these three samples, it is hard to totally gauge his style and, for me, the jury is still out, as they say. I did not dislike these works; in fact I found them rather interesting. Some new music makes an immediate positive impression and encourages the listener to find more. Others, more rarely for me, just do not even peak the curiosity. Hernesniemi’s music lies in a middle ground.

This CD, which serves as a bit of a sampler of his output, is not unpleasant but it does seem to ramble a bit. The first work, for example; Man playing on the shore, is scored for solo electronic keyboard and some processed tubular bells. It intends to evoke the sounds of the sea, as waves that cascade upon the shore and is, indeed, “cascading” but it sounds like a massive arpeggiated improvisation with some interesting harmonic structures. Poem leaves a different and, I felt, somewhat strongly impression. This is a four section work that, again, evokes running water and the composer’s notes imply a story or “tale” that may arise through the imagery that the sounds induce. It is a bit frenetic and jumpy in parts, tranquil and wave-like in others but the effect is again somewhat improvisatory.

Hernesniemi’s Ascending form is a work that exists, originally, for chorus and orchestra. The program or story for the work is about a man who creatures a sculpture. The resultant sounds are actually pretty interesting, almost in a Morton Feldman way (almost…) What we get here is seven movements of the original work and the score is performed by the composer. I found this work the most intriguing one present and I would really like to hear the whole acoustic version of this piece. Simply as a form of performance art it sounds fascinating and the photos in the packaging of the artist working on the sculpture look interesting too.

This is one of those recordings that, for me, is interesting, not unpleasant but feels incomplete. I did find the keyboard works a bit rambling and informal and I did find Ascending form very curious. I think many listeners will enjoy this, especially that last work. Dr. Hernesniemi certainly seems like a fascinating man who may be or turn out to be a very fine composer. I just think that this sole recording leaves an incomplete impression.

—Daniel Coombs

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