Osmo Vänskä

Kalevi Aho: Symphonic Dances; Symphony No. 11

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Among his contemporaries, Kalevi Aho stands as one of the most exciting composers, and foremost among his peers in revitalizing the Finnish symphonic tradition for the postmodern period. A student of Einojuhani Rautavaara, Aho has surpassed his teacher in orchestrational skill and daring. He has amply demonstrated that the symphony should not be treated as an academic exercise in imitation of past masters, and that it deserves the full resources of today's virtuoso orchestra and all the freedoms of the avant-garde's explorations. The Symphony No. 11 for six percussionists and orchestra consolidates the gains of modernism and spans innovations from Varèse to Xenakis. Yet Aho's music never sounds derivative, for he has internalized his influences and made his work sound fresh and spontaneous without obvious references or mannerisms. Aho's Symphonic Dances feature astonishing orchestral effects and powerful collisions of sound, superimposed on driving rhythms and cycling motives with abundant invention. The Kroumata Percussion Ensemble and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä, are particularly adept at playing Aho's impressive music, and have the benefit of the composer's advice for these performances. The recorded sound is excellent through most of the disc, though the closing Tranquillo movement of the symphony is extremely soft and best heard on headphones.

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