Paavo Jarvi has always been a champion of Eastern European music. In “Baltic Portraits” Jarvi uses that experience to present works of five composers from the region with hearfelt and committed performances.
Erkki-Sven Tuur’s occasional piece Fireflower starts off the program. This exotic-sounding work was written for Jarvi’s tenth anniversary with the CSO, and shows off the orchestra – and its conductor – to good advantage.
Symphony No. 8, “Autumnal Fragments” follows, by Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen. Completed shortly after 9/11, the work’s fragmentary thematic structure reflects somewhat the disruption most of the world felt after the event. This is a powerful composition, and the Cincinnati Symphony is more than equal to the technical challenges presented.
Although best known as a conductor these days, Esa-Pekka Salonen started his musical career as a composer. Gambit is a short work that, although post modern in its harmonies, still retains a certain romantic lushness.
Estonian composer Arvo Part was brought to prominence by his fellow countryman, conductor Neemi Jarvi. One of the works Neemi Jarvi recorded was Part’s Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten. His son Paavo brings a slightly different interpretation to this now well-known work. The tempos are a little brisker, but this is still a piece that moves at a very slow pace and remains true to Part’s tintinnabulli aesthetic.
Lepo Sumera’s Symphony No. 6 is the second of two major works on the album. The late Sumera admired Mahler, and while one can hear that influence in this symphony, the work seems to owe more to two fellow Estonian composers: Arvo Part and Edvard Tubin. The first movement’s long suspensions echo Part’s tintinnabuli, while the more energetic second movement sounds similar to Tubin’s symphonies.
If you’re familiar with any of these composers, Baltic Portraits will be a treat. If you’re not, Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra make a compelling case for further exploration of these composers’ works.
Baltic Portraits: Erkki-Sven Turr; Aulis Salonen; Arvo Pärt; Lepo Sumera
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Paavo Jarvi, conductor