Ari Rasilainen

Aulis Sallinen: Complete Symphonies; Concertos

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The most devoted fans of Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen (born in 1935) may well already have the five previously released discs collected in this set, but anyone just discovering the composer is likely to want to hear this compilation of his eight symphonies, plus several concertos, and a handful of orchestral works. Sallinen is a fluent, inventive, skillful composer and a masterful orchestrator, but the picture that emerges from this collection of much of his orchestral output covering over 30 years does not demonstrate a particularly distinctive voice. It's possible to hear echoes of the music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, but without the daring iconoclasm and individuality they brought to their best work. Sallinen's music in his symphonies and concerti is rarely explicitly programmatic, but it is frequently vividly pictorial. It often has a cinematic quality that is something of a lingua franca of late 20th century composers who never abandoned tonality: an accessible lyricism that employs contemporary techniques, but always in service of broadly expressive, ultimately conservative romanticism. It's a style with wide appeal, and fans of contemporary lyricism are likely to find much to savor in Sallinen's imaginative and well-crafted scores. Ari Rasilainen leads Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz in very fine, committed performances of these 16 mostly large-scale works. While both groups play well, neither consistently has quite the polish, depth, and burnished warmth of a major international orchestra. The sound of the CPO CDs is very clean, detailed, and nicely present, with good stereo definition.

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