Torleif Thedéen / Osmo Vänskä

Kokkonen: Sinfonisia Lounnoksia

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BIS deserves kudos for its extraordinary efforts in promoting Scandinavian composers and for presenting many impressive symphonies that deserve more attention in the west. Finnish composer Joonas Kokkonen is one of the few modern symphonists to adhere rigorously to traditional practices and to know what makes a symphony tick. Because of this, he never passed off his dramatic but loose Symphonic Sketches (1968) as anything more than a study; even when others would happily accept it as a symphony, albeit a short one, Kokkonen would not mislead. In its coherent three-movement structure, unifying motivic scheme, and economical development, the seriously argued Symphony No. 4 (1971) demonstrates Kokkonen's technical skill, clarity of purpose, and high standards; it fulfills its potential without pretense or pettifoggery. The Cello Concerto (1969) also shows great integrity and formal logic; while it is not as tightly knitted as the Symphony, due to its cadenzas, passages of repartee, and expanded five-movement form, it is still as well-reasoned and complete in its development. Cellist Torleif Thedéen delivers a deeply expressive and vigorous performance, and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, under Osmo Vänskä and supervised by the composer, provides rich colors and strong orchestral playing. The sound quality is decent, but a little too soft in places.

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