‘notkeatonline’ = JOUNI KAIPAINEN: notkea keaton; PAAVO KORPIJAAKKO: Amuse-bouche; USKO MERILÄINEN: Aikaviiva (Timeline) – Tampere Philharmonic Orch./Hannu Lintu – Alba Records multichannel 5.0 SACD ABCD 342, 55:36 (Distr. by Albany) ****:
Interesting music continues to come out of Finland. In fact, contemporary music used to be “defined” by a sound that was characterized by Rautavaara, Sallinen and Saariaho. More recent works by composers such as Puumula and Tiensuu show that a very wide berth eclecticism now seems to define the palate. This very intriguing disc proves that point.
I am somewhat familiar with Jouni Kaipainen through his fiendishly difficult clarinet concerto, Carpe Diem. His two movement work, notkea Keaton (The Ghost of Buster) has a bizarre but fascinating source of inspiration. The composer’s late close friend Markuu Peltola was an actor and musician whose specialty was broad comedy and revivals of old American and European silent films, such as those by comedian Buster Keaton. Peltola, in fact, had a sort of jazz club, new music ensemble that he called The Buster Keaton Film Orchestra. When Peltola passed away of a long illness, Kaipainen was determined to memorialize his friend in music. The interesting thing is that the “notkea” (ghostly apparition) aspect of Buster Keaton implied in the score’s first movement is not funny or farcical at all but has an odd, but compelling blend of dark ethereal flavor along with some unexpected tricks of orchestration that may be a reference to the rather athletic effects that the silent film actor was noted for. The second movement, Aubade beninoise, was added by Kaipainen two years later and may be performed as its own work. The interesting thing here is that the title refers to the village of Benin in West Africa that the composer visited to explore its blend of native peoples and Finnish cultural influences, as typified by the Villa Karo cultural house. There is a dark but exotic feel to this section or movement as well. Of particular interest is the composer’s use of drums and drumming that conjure up djembe performers. This whole score is largely tonal and deliciously orchestrated with a mysterious aura that I really liked. The reasons and feelings that led to the work’s creations are a bit obtuse and – most assuredly – personal to the composer, but it is a fascinating work.
Amuse-bouche by Paavo Korpijaakko also has a fascinating cultural symbolism behind its creation. The term “amuse-bouche” is from French culinary traditions and refers to any number of small pre-dinner dishes that will whet the appetite for what is to come (in French cooking, a more precise fare than to refer to such recipes as “appetizers”) This work is actually a pretty substantial and “meaty” piece filled with dramatic bursts of percussion and sweeping wind statements. This very attention-getting work becomes quiet, eerie for a bit but closes in a bold fashion. I was not at all familiar with Korpijaakko until this work but I definitely would like to hear more.
Lastly, Usko Meriläinen’s Aikaviiva (“Timeline”) is also subtitled his Concerto No.2 for orchestra and was written for the Tampere Philharmonic. This is a fascinating and somewhat ethereal work characterized by a very creative and somewhat moody use of percussion. I found it interesting that the “Timeline” of the title refers to a fairly systematic use of rhythm and tempo. The work builds gradually as the percussion effectively “chops up” time into different rhythmic grouping causing the tempo to directly and implicitly speed up, then break down again. Some similar subdivisions within the context of time occur with respect to dynamics. It is a very interesting piece to be sure.
The performances by the Tampere Philharmonic under the baton of Hannu Lintu are very fine. This orchestra has a strong recorded history of their proficiency with modern music and the sound quality of this disc is great. The SACD format is crisp and clear and sounds very fine all the way around. These are compelling works by composers with different musical perspectives and true life personalities and life experiences to influence their work. Recommended!
Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered vinyl of a live duo performance by Archie Shepp.