- Concerto for clarinet & orchestra
- Verdoyances crépuscules, for orchestra
- Diamond Street, for clarinet solo
The gradient, emerald-green cover artwork consisting of a number of expressionless fish combined with a menacing, bronze-colored empty diving outfit makes for one of the most beautiful, original, and ominous compact disc covers ever created. This Ondine release also offers some of the best proof yet that one can judge a book by its cover. This disc features the work of a man whose works may soon become more widely known: composer and Finn Kimmo Hakola. Born in 1958, Hakola composes with a style that is not yet quite wholly his own, but with potential for greatness. Folk music has clearly played a big role in his music, which he often infuses with oriental (including Mongolian) descent. In the "Clarinet Concerto" (2001), one of Hakola's aims is to build on the breadth of those styles, which he heavily utilized in his "Piano Concerto" (1996). The 40-minute concerto is cast in four movements. The first opens with some cold, tumultuous orchestra writing alternating with a bluesy solo clarinet line, interjected with occasional rich fourths and fifths. Conductor Sakari Oramo achieves a nice atmosphere in the second movement, where soloist Kari Kriikku performs deftly wispy, improvisatory-like passages on top of a barren landscape. The more exotic, Jewish-like themes of the third movement (perhaps the concerto's most interesting) are given good treatment by both clarinetist and orchestra, and the energy carries into the Klezmer-rich final movement. The featured orchestra is the Finnish Radio Symphony; having long been pioneers of contemporary Finnish music, they showcase themselves extremely well on this release. Solo hornist Esa Tukia plays beautifully during the "Verdoyances Crépuscules" (2004), a work full of initial shock (think Shostakovich or Kancheli) that eventually dissipates into a broad, silvery plain featuring the solo horn. "Diamond Music" is a bluesy, exotic, virtuoso work for solo clarinet that, like the third and fourth movements of the "Clarinet Concerto," uses the harmonic minor scale and variations on it extensively. There is also a generous amount of pitch bending. Some of the upper parts sound strongly reminiscent of "Facsimilie" by Leonard Bernstein; indeed, the work has a strong Jewish feel. Kriikku pours his heart into this seven-minute piece for a performance that is compelling and virtuosic. As certain parts seem too contrived, one must hesitate to say that Hakola has found his true compositional style. But, as this excellent release proves, Hakola is well on his way: his works make for interesting and enjoyable listening, and Ondine's sound quality is flawless to match. Just look for the fancy green cover.