Elina Vähälä / Jaakko Kuusisto

The Red Violin: Concertos by Corigliano & Kuusisto

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The novelty in this Swedish release lies not necessarily with the performances by American-Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä, which have little to object to, but with the program. For all the success of John Corigliano's score to The Red Violin and its subsequent rearrangement and expansion into a violin concerto, success that has been international in its dimensions, the work has rarely been taken out of American surroundings. It's highly enjoyable to have it bump up against some contemporary Scandinavian music, in this case a violin concerto and a short symphonic poem, Leika, Op. 24, by the Finnish composer and conductor Jaakko Kuusisto. The latter two works will be new to most Finnish listeners as well as those in the English-speaking world. They fall into the large group of works that extend the Sibelius ethos into the modern compositional realm, with brilliant orchestral effects, an imposing sound, and traditional forms and tonal languages greatly extended rather than completely discarded. Sample the momentum of the concerto's finale (track 4), which holds up well in comparison to its models. The parallels with Corigliano, an American extended romantic, emerge as the album unfolds and bespeak the development of a new stylistic consensus, or at least reference point, in an age of diversity. Highly enjoyable from start to finish, and aided by impressive SACD engineering work at the Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland.

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