“Portraits” – NORDGREN: Portraits of Country Fiddlers; BRUCH: Serenade; BARTOK: Romanian Folk Dances; SALLINEN: Funeral March; RAUTAVAARA: Ostrobothnian Polska; GRIEG: Two Melodies; JALKANEN: The Serf of Viro – Ostrobothnia Ch. Orch./Joha Kangas – Alba

by | Nov 20, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Portraits” – NORDGREN: Portraits of Country Fiddlers; BRUCH: Serenade for Strings; BARTOK: Romanian Folk Dances; SALLINEN: Some Aspects of Peltoniemi Hintrik’s Funeral March; RAUTAVAARA: Ostrobothnian Polska; GRIEG: Two Melodies; JALKANEN: The Serf of Viro – Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/ Juha Kangas – Alba Multichannel SACD ABCD 205, 66:32 **** [Distr. by Albany]:

Ostrobothnia is a region of western Finland with a thriving folk music culture.  The local Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra has commission many works which draw on this folk culture, and in this lively surround SACD has brought together some of these works plus others by well-known older composers whose folk-flavored compositions in other forms have been arranged string orchestra.

The four country fiddlers adaptations of Bothnian folk tunes are probably the most folky of all the works, although some of the pieces get into much more avant and sophisticated writing than any true folk music. The Bruch work is the most conservative and straightforward of all the pieces, rather serious in tone. Bartok’s well-known Romanian Folk Dances are striking rustic and Balkan in their original violin-piano version, but adding the whole string ensemble makes them more rich and festive sonically, especially with the excellent surround sound.

The Sallinen 13-minute piece must have the most off-putting title imaginable, but it has become a most popular work of Finnish chamber music.  It is a transcription/expansion of his third string quartet, built around a theme with five variations. Grieg transcribed two of his own songs for his Op. 53 Two Melodies, and the closing short work for two violins and strings is one of the best-known examples of Finnish minimalism.

String tone throughout the album is rather more harsh than typical symphonic string sections – probably closer to the folk music model.  If you’re restricted to listening to the CD layer of this disc you might find it grating; I would even call it annoying. But the SACD makes it quite palatable.

 – John Sunier

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