20TH CENTURY MUSIC FOR FLUTE AND ORCHESTRA (Okko Kamu/ Petri Alanko/ Tapiola Sinfonietta) (Naxos: 8.554185)
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Sallinen; Takemitsu; Penderecki
Music for flute and orchestra
Aulis Sallinen is among the best known contemporary Finnish composers. Born in Salmi in 1933, he studied composition with Arre Merikanto and Joonas Kokkonen at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and subsequently joined the teaching staff there, after serving for ten years as executive director of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. An award from the Finnish government in 1976 enabled him thereafter to devote his full attention to composition. He is a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Music and in 1983 was joint recipient, with Krzysztof Penderecki, of the Sibelius Prize of the Wihuri Foundation. Sallinen's compositions include five operas, ballets and a number of orchestral works, symphonies, concertos and sets of variations. His chamber music includes a number of string quartets.
Sallinen's Concerto for flute and orchestra, Opus 70, commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, was completed in 1995 and dedicated to the well-known flautist Patrick Gallois. The concerto, given the title Harlekiini, is scored for four string quartets, six brass-players and a number of wind and percussion instruments, the last placed mid-stage to give a stereophonic division between strings and brass. It is in four connected sections and opens with evocative orchestral sonorities, before the entry of the solo instrument into what are firmly tonal textures. To the orchestral chords the flute adds fragments of melody, based on recurrent figures and motifs, passed from soloist to orchestra. The Adagio section that follows harsh accompanying tone-clusters, offers an element of relative tranquillity, the flute solo now accompanied by dense orchestral chords and by a percussion counterpoint. The third section is introduced by the soloist, after the interweaving of the flute and solo violin line. Related material, sometimes angular in outline and often fragmentary in form, is passed between the participants, varying in mood from the meditative to the energetic, before a gong initiates the fourth and final section. Here a prolonged flute solo, suggesting a cadenza, leads to the return of the orchestra in all its varied instrumental colourings and to a conclusion that seems to leave much unsaid.
The Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu provides a remarkable conjunction of East and West. He was largely self-taught, apart from some private study with Yosuji Kiyose, under whose auspices his first music was performed. In 1951 he joined Joji Yuasa and Kuniharu Akiyama in the Experimental Workshop (Jikken Kobo), an organization that aimed to bring together all the arts and offered a varied musical repertoire of contemporary composers. In the following decade he achieved wide recognition as a composer himself, influenced at first by contemporary French composers and then, from 1961, by John Cage. Over the years he won esteem, signalled by many international awards and prizes. In the 1960s he also began to explore the use of Japanese instruments in a contemporary Western musical context, particularly in works for the biwa (Japanese lute) and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), instruments that he featured in a 1967 commission for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He provided music for some ninety films, including Akira Kurosawa's Ran in 1987. He died in 1996.
In a lecture given in Tokyo in 1984 Takemitsu pointed out that programme notes were unnecessary, since a listener should hear everything in the music itself. Nevertheless he went on to stress the importance of words and the importance he himself attached to titles, over the choice of which he took great trouble. His Toward the Sea was originally written for alto flute and guitar, a combination of instruments that must recall the shakuhachi and biwa which, in the hands of some modern Japanese composers have something of Ravel or Debussy about them. Takemitsu's work was arranged in a second version for alto flute, harp and strings and first performed in this form in Sapporo in 1981. As so often, poignant use is made of silence in all three movements, with their subtle nuances of flute tone. Although the movement titles suggest the work of Herman Melville, the music itself paints another picture. Takemitsu himself spoke of his music as fragments thrown together, as if in a dream, creating imaginary soundscapes, be it the serenity of night or, as in the third movement, the evocative dawn over the tranquil sea.
Born near Kraków in 1933, Krzysztof Penderecki had early encouragement in his musical ambitions and studied at the Kraków Conservatory, where he subsequently taught, later becoming rector. In his years as a student he was at first tempted to become a violinist, but later turned exclusively to composition. His first great success came in 1959 when he entered three of his compositions, anonymously, according to the rules, in a competition run by the Polish League of Composers, winning the three first prizes. It was not long before he began to win a much wider reputation, with performances abroad of works such as Anaklasis, given at Donaueschingen in 1960 and his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, played at the ISCM Festival three years later. In 1966 his St Luke Passion was performed at Münster Cathedral and his opera, based on John Whiting's dramatization of Aldous Huxley's novel, The Devils of Loudun, written in 1968, gradually achieved success with powerful and imaginative directors. Ten years later came his operatic treatment of Milton's Paradise Lost, based on a dramatic version by Christopher Fry. Penderecki has enjoyed a busy international career, conducting performances of his music and serving as a visiting professor in America. He remains a leading figure in the Polish music of his generation.
Penderecki's Concerto for flute and chamber orchestra was completed in December 1992 and is in one continuous movement, although the tracks given mark some of the changes in mood. It is scored for a varied orchestra with an extended percussion section and is dedicated to Jean-Pierre Rampal. Penderecki is eclectic rather than doctrinaire in his choice and use of musical materials and makes considerable use of the varied instrumental timbres available to him, while his writing for the flute itself lacks the varied nuances that Takemitsu could derive from Japanese and Chinese musical tradition.
A clarinet starts the concerto, presenting fragments of melody to which the solo flute responds and which will form the basis of what follows. A passage for flute alone ends in a short chromatic melodic figure that is inverted and explored as the music increases in momentum. A flute cadenza is followed by a passage marked Vivace in which the two melodic figures, one angular and wide-spaced and the other chromatic, are featured. There is an intervention by the trumpet and suggestions of Baroque counterpoint, which are to return. Track  of the present recording is marked Andante and offers a moment of rest and poignancy in its descending melodic line and its oscillating flute octaves. There is an increase in harmonic tension before the energetic Allegro con brio, with its fierce tom-tom accompaniment. The flute, f