This volume of Selim Palmgren’s piano music shows the Finnish composer’s skill as a miniaturist. The works span almost three decades, and none of them longer than four minutes in length (many under a minute).
Palmgren studied piano with Ferruccio Busoni and had phenomenal technique. That knowledge of the instrument is apparent in these works.
The earliest work, Deux contrasts, dates from 1899. Even here there’s a lot going on. Palmgren emphasizes the dramatic points of his melodies with towering chords and cascading runs.
Some of the pieces, such as the Waltz in a Western Finnish Style are quick and to the point. With a playing time of 58 seconds, it could take as long to introduce the piece as to play it. Yet even here, Palmgren develops his melodies in an effective manner.
Included is Kevätauerta (‘Spring Haze’), one of Palmgren’s best-known works. It’s a piano instruction staple in Northern Europe.
Most impressive, I think, are the 24 Preludes from 1907. Palmgren uses all 12 major and minor keys. Each prelude has its own character.
Some are programmatic, such as Dream Picture (#11), The Round Dance (#15), and The Sea (#12). Others are abstract, given simply tempo markings. Palmgren seems equally at home with both types.
Pianist Jouni Somero gives us some insightful readings. These may be miniatures, but they’re not trifles. Somero performs with superb expression and confidence.
A worthy companion to Volume 1
Selim Palmgren: Complete Piano Works 2
Jouni Somero, piano
Grand Piano GP868