Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Vol.1 complete orchestral works
Symphony No. 2 (1917) 40.44
Tragic Episode and Rapids Shooting from Juha (1935) 11.34
Ostrobothnian Suite (1923) 16.15
Oulu SO/Arvo Volmer
rec 1998, Madetoja Hall, Oulu
ALBA ABCD 132 [68.55] (full price)
Crotchet    Amazon UK  

Of the three symphonies the second stands superior above its successor and its predecessor. One can see why Alba launched the series with it. In addition the playing time on this disc is generous by comparison with Vol. 2 (Symphony No. 1 etc).

Before the symphony come two assemblages of material from the operas Pohjalaisa and Juha. Both are seriously attractive pieces of music. The Suite is one of the most atmospheric sound-pictures of the tundra. One can see where Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus began. The overhung tragedy and whiplash attack of the two Juha scenes are well worth hearing. You must not be surprised if after hearing these items you want to catch the complete operas (Juha on ODE and Pohjalaisa on Finlandia). This is all extremely accessible in a Karelian (track 7 1.30), En Saga and Lemminkainen Legends accent.

While I have a passing reservation about the speed (a shade too hurried) with which the enchanting Allegro moderato (I) is swung by Volmer it is certainly strongly done. Bask in the sunshine of a work that was clearly influenced by Sibelius 1 and Kullervo and Balakirev's Symphony No. 1 and Tamara. The work was premiered by Kajanus, the dedicatee of the First Symphony and a key supporter of Sibelius as well as a composer in his own right. You must not miss this symphony. Its tragic strain, hinted at in the first movement, is transformed by sorrow and fury (Madetoja's borther Yrjo and his friend and fellow composer Toivo Kuula were killed within month of each other in 1918). It is an essential acquisition and this is an excellent version.

Unglamorous design (will this disc grab the attention in the racks at Tower or HMV?) is counterbalanced by very fine notes by Riita Pulliainen sensitively translated by James Nimmo.

Rob Barnett

Leevi MADETOJA (1887-1947)
Vol. 2 complete orchestral works
Symphony No. 1 (1916)
Concert Overture (1911)
Pastoral Suite (1916)
Rustic Scenes (1936)
Oulu SO/Arvo Volmer
rec 1998/99, Madetoja Hall, Oulu
ALBA ABCD 144 [48.28] (full price)

Crotchet  Amazon UK

Alba have set themselves some tough targets on the world stage. In their Madetoja symphonic series they jostle with Chandos Enchant  £11.50 (2 for 1, Iceland SO/Petri Sakari) and with Finlandia.

The Symphony is compact and extremely accessible but without the emotional breadth of the Second Symphony. It is warmed and chilled by currents familiar from Sibelius's Karelia and the stormy clenched fist of the First Symphony and, strikingly, from Howard Hanson's Second Symphony.

The spry little overture is pleasing and cleanly orchestrated even if the ideas are not strongly defined. The suite's four movements are pretty trifles, expectedly more nationalistic but not at all ambitious. They rush lightly, dream contentedly; Sibelian idylls each one. The Waltz that tops off the Pastoral Suite is Gallic and rather at odds with the rest. The Scenes are taken from the 1930s film 'The Struggle for the Homestead' and their pastoral credentials are a facsimile of those for the suite. The Sibelian wind writing in the Sunday Morning movement is unmistakable and a delight comparable to the innocent country suites of Dane, Ludolf Nielsen (on Da Capo). I do not recall earlier recordings of these two agreeable light confections.

Idiomatically translated notes by Riita Pulliainen.

Beautifully performed and recorded collectors will want to add this disc to their Chandos and Finlandia discs.

Watch out for vol.3. The cycle will be released one album each year. Perhaps after finishing the Madetoja series we can expect to see an Edric Fordell symphonic cycle?

Rob Barnett

In case of difficulty ALBA will supply direct:,+358 3 345 1387 or fax +358 3 345 1384.

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