Villem KAPP (1913–1964)
Elegie (1940) [3:44]
Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908–1986)
Liten serenad (Little Serenade) Op. 12 (1934) [10:21]
Erik FORDELL (1917–1981)
I folkton (1952) [2:43]
Karl-Birger BLOMDAHL (1916–1968)
Adagio (from the play Vaknatten) (1945) [5:14]
Einar ENGLUND (1916–1999)
Serenata (1983) [20:18]
Eduard OJA (1905–1950)
Vaikivad meeleolud (Silent Moods) (1930) [5:13]
Jēkabs MEDIŅŠ (1885–1971)
Legenda (1909) [5:08]
Aarre MERIKANTO (1893–1958)
Serenade in A minor for cello and strings [11:12]
Pyotr TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Elegie (1884) [7:24]
Marko Ylönen (cello)
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Juha Kangas
rec. 2014, Snellmann Hal, Kokkola
ALBA ABCD380 SACD [72:09]
Alba is very good with these compilations of predominantly Scandinavian and Baltic string music by composers who, for the most part, are not household names. This is the third in my collection joining Fiddler’s Spring (review) and Nostalgia (review).
The disc begins and ends with an elegy, one by a little-known composer, the other by one of the most famous. Villem Kapp was one of a prominent Estonian musical family, whose members were celebrated on a Chandos recording of a few years ago (review). His Elegie is gentle and soothing, slight without being facile. Tchaikovsky’s is one of his lesser-known works, by which I mean it only has a dozen or so recordings. It was written as a commission from the Moscow Society of Artists as part of the celebrations for the actor Ivan Samarin’s fifty years on stage with the title ‘A Grateful Greeting’. After Samarin’s death in 1890, Tchaikovsky published it under the new name of ‘Elegy in Memory of Ivan Samarin’. It is anything but celebratory, so one wonders what Samarin must have thought of it. It definitely fits its new title better.
The Larsson Serenade is one of his better-known works. It has yet to appear on the Andrew Manze CPO series, so is a likely candidate for a disc filler on the next release. Larsson studied with Alban Berg, and this work comes only two years after he wrote Sweden’s first dodecaphonic composition. Lest that scare the horses, let me assure you that this is a delightfully melodic and tonal work which never outstays its welcome across its four brief movements.
The names of Fordell and Blomdahl are new to me. The informative notes advise that the former wrote 44 symphonies; none have been recorded. His Folk-like Song is reflective, and rather flows into the next track, becoming more sad. Both Blomdahl and Fordell are described as having Modernist tendencies, but these works are anything but.
The Englund Serenata is the most piquant of all the works presented here, and is cleverly positioned on the disc to provide contrast with the rich mellowness of the previous two. Its acidity is, however, leavened with liberal helpings of melody and flowing strings. This all adds up to a really characterful piece.
The work by Estonian Eduard Oja which lends itself to the title of the recording is wistful and elegiac, bordering on sad. The notes don’t explain what legend is portrayed by the work by the Latvian Mediņš. It is graceful and restrained, and I can’t really agree with the notes which suggest late-Romantic angst.
Without question, the stand-out piece is the Merikanto Serenade. It was written as a birthday present for his mother. This is the only work to feature a solo instrument, and while it is isn’t a showy part, Marko Ylönen does a fine job. He would appear to be Alba’s “house” cellist, with a number of recordings, among them a group of modern works (review). As with the Englund, there appears to be no other recording of this work, though the notes don’t claim premiere recordings for any of these works. They are at least very well served here.
The recording quality is exemplary, and the choice of these works makes for a fascinating listen. Britain is thought of as the “home” of works for string orchestra, but these Alba recordings indicate that there is an trove of equal quality and quantity near the Arctic Circle.