Sharon Bezaly / Jaakko Kuusisto / Susanna Mälkki

Uljas Pulkkis: Enchanted Garden

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Born in 1975, the three works of Finnish composer Uljas Pulkkis heard on this album come from a young man of only 25-27 years of age. In such a short span of time, it's rather remarkable to notice just how compositionally different each of these works are. The earliest work is Enchanted Garden, an eight-chapter tour de force for solo violin and orchestra. Although the titles of the eight chapters are mentioned, it's regrettable that more information about the program is not given. In an actual performance, the violin soloist is supposed to move around the stage, thereby demonstrating the implied narrative. With an audio recording, however, this guidance is missing. The virtuosic Concerto for Flute & Orchestra, written only one year later, relies more heavily on neo-classical formulae for structure, although Pulkkis' tonal language remains his own. In the same vein as Hindemith's Symphony Mathis der Maler, the final work on this album is based on visual art -- in this case three paintings of Salvador Dali. Again, not being able to see the visual impetus for the music is a drawback that could have been alleviated in the liner notes. The performances themselves, from soloists to orchestra, are top notch. The overall sound quality of the recording is surprising problematic, given that it's recorded in multi-channel SACD. The extremely busy orchestra sometimes is a little unclear and soloists appear to be recorded from too great a distance.

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