Aho: Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet; Quintet for Saxophone, Bassoon, Viola, Cello and Double Bass

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COMPOSERS: Aho
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Quintet for Bassoon and String Quartet; Quintet for Saxophone, Bassoon, Viola, Cello and Double Bass
PERFORMER: Sinfonia Lahti Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CD-866
The Finnish composer Kalevi Aho recently celebrated his 50th birthday and as part of their ongoing project to record the ‘Complete Aho’, BIS has now coupled two of his chamber works, the early Bassoon Quintet of 1977 written when he was in his late twenties, and the more recent Quintet for the unusual combination of alto saxophone, bassoon, viola, cello and double bass. Whether or not you respond to his music, there is no question of Aho’s expertise in writing for wind. The Bassoon Quintet is a long piece of some 37 minutes and in six movements played without a break. It evinces a certain wit in and though on first hearing I thought it had its longueurs, I suspect these will be less in evidence as one is drawn into its world. I certainly found more to admire second time round, though it still strikes me as lacking density of musical incident. The Alto saxophone quintet of 1994 is another matter: a rather extraordinary piece and most effectively laid out for the medium. Its writing shows off this sonically rich and dark combination of instruments, and the music is resourceful and the quality of its invention high. There is a depth of feeling that eludes the earlier piece. The virtuosity of all concerned and in particular the bassoonist Harri Ahmas and the saxophonist Hannu Lehtonen is impressive. The excellence of the BIS sound enhance the value of this enterprising and valuable issue. Robert Layton.

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