- Northern Lights, fantasy for orchestra, Op. 38
Opinion may be divided on this disc of orchestral music by Finnish modernist composer Uuno Klami. Consistently well written and effectively scored, the three pieces here -- "Northern Lights" from 1946, the "Kalevala Suite" from 1943, and the "Cheremissian Fantasy for cello and orchestra" from 1931-- are highly melodic works that offer much of the appeal of Sibelius, but with fewer challenges. Favored with fine performances by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, strongly characterized interpretations by John Storgårds, and richly atmospheric sound by Ondine, anyone who has enjoyed Klami's symphonies are likely to appreciate this disc. For some listeners, however, Klami's melodies may seem a bit trite, his harmonies a tad too unadventurous, his colors a shade too primary, and his music decidedly too conservative. Though they might readily admit his skill and happily acknowledge his sincerity, they would likely find Klami's music to be, in a word, dull.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's unfortunate how little Finnish orchestral music outside of Sibelius finds its way into American concert halls, but Finnish music has done a lot better on recordings thanks, for the most part, to the Ondine label. It's safe to say that the music of Uuno Klami (1900-1961) is really not known outside of Finland but this recording of three of his fine orchestral works makes a good introduction composer to a top-notch composer. If you are expecting the stark power and drama of Sibelius, Klami may not be your man. Truth be told there is more of the color of Ravel and pungency of Stravinsky in the works heard on this recording. The tone poem Northern Lights owes much to Ravel and impresses with its shifts of orchestral colors. A more modern sound-Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was on Klami's mind - is heard in the Cheremissian Fantasy, a piece for cello and orchestra. This two movement work shifts from a somberly melodic opening movement to a fiery second movement laced with just a bit of savagery. Klami's best-known work, Kalevala Suite, rounds out the program and he displays his superb gifts as an orchestrator and as a master of hyper-Romantic nature music. The performances by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Stogårds are marvelously idiomatic, this music is in their blood and it shows. Cellist Samuli Peltonen is a stand-out in the Cheremissian Fantasy, singing with beautiful full tone in the first movement and burning down the house in the second. The recording has wonderfully natural sound - typical of most Ondine orchestral recordings - and solid liner notes. Take note, Ondine also has recordings of Klami's symphonies and another disc of tone poems.