Pehr Henrik Nordgren was one of Finland's most prominent, gifted, and prolific late 20th century composers; starting out as a strict serial modernist in the 1960s, Nordgren shortly began to regard this approach as a dead end and began to incorporate folk motifs, cluster chords, and tonality into his work. He was a lifelong friend of conductor Juha Kangas, who brings the resources of the Turku Philharmonic into the service of Nordgren's music in Alba's Pehr Henrik Nordgren: Transient Moods. The disc contains two late works, Nordgren's Seventh (2003) and Eighth (2006) symphonies, and his symphonic poem Summer Music (1977). All of this music is great; it's fresh, contemporary, and uncompromising in its own way, yet lyrical and relatively easy to grasp. Here was a late modern composer who developed an individual voice that bespoke his own personality and national heritage, yet he was not worried that his peers might think less of him for incorporating intuitive elements and, at times, pure entertainment value into his works. The shimmering cycle of cluster chords that opens the Symphony No. 7 is genuinely otherworldly and beautiful, spectral in a tactile way, yet the rollicking fiddle tune that gets underway later in the single-movement symphony is cozy and captivating, and Nordgren finds a way to knit these disparate elements together that flows seamlessly; it is almost like a Norwegian version of the Roy Harris Symphony No. 3. Kangas was Nordgren's close friend, serving as both champion and agent provocateur of Nordgren's orchestral music, and Kangas' performance of these pieces -- likely the last recordings Nordgren would have heard of his orchestral music before his death in August 2008 -- are absolutely dedicated, well spelled out, expressively realized, and exciting, and Alba's recording is gorgeously multidimensional and dynamic. Alba's Pehr Henrik Nordgren: Transient Moods will likely satisfy both those who feel that contemporary classical music has gone to the dogs and the audience unable to listen to concert music without some degree of edge and bite.
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AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis
|Symphony No. 8, Op. 140|