Aug6thth 2008

Kalevi AHO (b. 1949)
Symphonic Dances. Hommage à Uuno Klami (2001)
Symphony No. 11 for six percussionists and orchestra (1997-98)
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
Recorded January 2002 (Symphonic Dances) February 2002 (Symphony) at the Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1336 [60:09]

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This review first appeared on MusicWeb in 2004

The story behind the composition of Ahoís Symphonic Dances is almost as fascinating as the music itself.... read full review above/

Symphonic Dances

.... The result is an extraordinary achievement. A magical fusion of Klamiís own language, coloured and refracted through Ahoís compositional mind. I use the word coloured quite literally, for Aho is a born colourist and orchestral painter who also happens to write with astonishing facility. Although in four movements the final instalment, Dance of the Winds and Fires is by a margin the most substantial as well as being the only movement in which Aho employs electronic colour. The opening Prelude commences with an ascending figure also evident at the close of the entire piece, before the material expands to frame a central dream like sequence that gains animation only to close once again in quiet mystery.
Prelude here

The Return of the Flames and Dance grows from its initial flickering, gradually gathering momentum until the flames dance with ever increasing energy to a final explosion of sound.
The Return of the Flames and Dance here

Grotesque Dance begins in lugubrious fashion with timpani and sluggish bassoons until all manner of strange beings and animals emerge from the forest in reference to the original Kalevala story. Listen out for the astonishing tuba solo, Ahoís depiction of the Devilís Elk!
Grotesque Dance here

In the final panel the east, west, south and north winds blow in turn, the sound of the wind created electronically whilst the music passes through a gradually emerging waltz passage, ultimately culminating in a huge, appropriately whirling climax of almost apocalyptic proportions as the winds all blow simultaneously. From the chaos emerges a final hymn of consolation in the middle strings, an affirmation of belief in the future that subsides to silence.
Dance of the Winds and Fires here

Symphony 11

Cast in three movements of roughly similar proportions the first begins in veiled shadows with instrumental textures appearing through the mists. Gradually the music gathers rhythmic energy until an extraordinary central percussion cadenza in which all six percussionists take up castanets.

1st Movement here

The music that emerges changes character completely, the tempo now fast, the material mercurial and fleet of foot before subsiding into silence.

The central movement is effectively one huge accelerando, progressing from the initial soulful melody played by heckelphone to rhythmically driven material in which various drums propel the momentum to a final manic percussive tremolo.

2nd Movement here

In total contrast the final Tranquillo rarely rises above a piano dynamic, a hypnotically haunting movement, the music taking on what the composer describes as an almost ritual quality. Here the percussionists are dispersed around the concert hall, eventually leaving the stage one by one, each playing antique cymbals. Itís worth listening out for the atmospheric sound of six ten-stringed kanteles that are employed around two thirds of the way through the movement.

3rd Movement here



Christopher Thomas


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