Carolina Eyck / Annu Salminen / John Storgårds

Kalevi Aho: Theremin Concerto; Horn Concerto

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The music of Finnish composer Kalevi Aho, rooted in the mainstream tonality of the major 20th century symphonists but with a distinctive mystical and ritual streak, is deservedly becoming more popular. This release offers a pair of concertos by Aho, both composed in 2011. The big news is the theremin concerto, part of very small literature for that instantly recognizable instrument (there's even a cat-and-theremin video online if you need a laugh). Aho was induced to compose this work by a request from a German theremin player, Carolina Eyck. Having composed concertos for other unusual instruments, and being in the midst of a series of solo concertos, Aho agreed. As it happens, the theremin is ideally suited to Aho's style, and the concerto might serve as an introduction to his later music for those who've never heard it. The work is titled Acht Jahreszeiten (Eight Seasons), a concept originating with the Sami people who divide the year thus. Each season exploits the possibilities of the theremin in a different way: it offers incantations, lyrical songs, jittery instability, mystery. It's a marvelous work, performed here by Eyck and the Lapland Chamber Orchestra under John Storgårds; the only thing holding it back from general popularity is the shortage of thereminists. The Concerto for horn & chamber orchestra is scarcely less original and likewise features expert orchestral writing. The horn player (Annu Salminen) does not stand in one place but moves around the orchestra, adding a ritual dimension as well as a group of unique instrumental balances. These are faithfully captured by the BIS engineering team, at the top of its game here, working at the Korundi House of Culture in the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi. In all, a superb contemporary concerto release.

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