Kalevi Aho Concertos – Contemporary Masterworks from Finland

Finnish composer Kalevi Aho is best known for his large-scale works. This release has two excellent examples: the Tympani Concerto, and the Piano Concerto No. 1.

The Turku Philharmonic Orchestra commissioned the Tympani Concerto for its timpanist, Ari-Pekka Mäenpää. Speaking as a percussionist, I think it’s a masterwork. Aho worked with Mäenpää to create a work that makes the tympani a truly melodic instrument.

Aho takes full advantage of pedal tuning, which let the player rapidly change notes. And there are plenty of glissandi, making the player change the note’s pitch on the fly. Aho also expands the setup to five drums (as opposed to the traditional four), which gives him even more resources to work with.

The timpani has some long, lyric passages that are quite beautiful. But Aho hasn’t forgotten its role in the orchestra. The finale is a rollicking rhythmic tour-de-force. Ari-Pekka Mäenpää is an exceptional performer. Other tympanists looking to perform this work will find it quite a challenge.

Aho’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is a heady mix of styles. I heard goodly portions of Alfred Schnittke and Sergei Prokofiev with a dash of Edgar Varése, all served up in a totally original style. Aho uses strongly tonal elements — such as diatonic scales, and simple triads — in a decidedly non-tonal fashion. The concerto has a sarcastic swagger to it I quite liked.

There are also some quiet and contemplative passages, too. The work has a satisfying emotional flow to it. Pianist Sonja Fräki knows Aho’s works intimately. Her doctoral dissertation was on Aho’s piano music, and she’s recorded them for BIS. This is an artist who truly understands the composer’s intentions, and her performance demonstrates that.

Heartily recommended — and not just to lovers of contemporary classical music.

Kalevi Aho: Tympani Concerto, Piano Concerto No. 1
Ari-Pekka Mäenpää, timpani; Sonja Fräki, piano;
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Erkki Lasonpalo (Timpani Concerto) Eva Ollikainen (Piano Concerto)
BIS 2306 SACD

More Recent Posts

  • 44 Trumpet Master Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Looking Forward

    Tags: , , , ,

    Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah Since he began recording at nineteen, now thirty-eight year old Christian Scott ATunde Adjuah has been developing one of the most distinguishable trumpet sounds in jazz or as he prefers “creative improvised music.” A nephew of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, Jr., he is graduate of the storied New Orleans Center for […]

  • New Blues News – 6/15/2021

    New Blues News – 6/15/2021 Caroline Dahl – A Boogie Woogie State Of Mind (Self-produced): Pianist Caroline Dahl is a native of Kentucky but has made San Francisco her home for thirty years, playing both solo and in bands. On her latest disc she is joined by a slew of Bay Area stalwarts, including two […]

  • Classical Interviews – Broadway in the Park

    Charlottesville Opera performed Broadway favorites like ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘From My Fair Lady’ on Saturday, June 12th. Sharin Apostolou, a greek-american soprano and Charlottesville Opera’s Ader Artist-in-Residence, tells us about the event. She spoke to WTJU about the cast’s backgrounds, the shift back to in-person performances, and the Open Air Season. The Open Air […]

  • Classical Interviews – Opera In The Park

    Charlottesville Opera presents Opera in the Park this week as as part of their 43rd Summer Season. Grab a ticket to hear 10 young artists preform the world’s greatest opera hits on June 17th at 7pm and check out the rest of their Open Air Season in the links below. WTJU spoke with rising stars […]

  • New Jazz Adds – 6/15/2021

    New Jazz News – 6/15/2021 Dave Bass – The Trio, Vol. 1 (Self-produced): “This Cincinnati Kid attended Berklee, studied with the legendary Madame Chaloff gleaning an exquisite touch on piano and an appreciation for the spirituality of music. He also opened for Captain Beefheart, studied composition with George Russell, and toured the world with Brenda […]

  • Legendary Memphis drummer Howard Grimes calls in to Soulful Situation on Monday, June 21

    On Monday, June 21 at 12:30 p.m., the Rum Cove welcomes two special guests to WTJU’s Soulful Situation: Preston Loauterbach, author of The Chitlin Circuit and the Road to Rock and Roll and Beale Street Dynasty, will be interviewing Howard “Bulldog” Grimes. Grimes, now 80 years old, is a legendary Memphis drummer and author of […]