Marttinen

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Marttinen
LABELS: Cobra Records
ALBUM TITLE: Marttinen: Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, Phantasy for Cello & Orchestra
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Piano Concerto No. 1; Phantasy for Cello & Orchestra
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); Ralph van Raat (piano); Turku Philharmonic Orchestra/Ari Rasilainen; Marko Ylönen (cello); Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Hannu Lintu*
CATALOGUE NO: COBRA 0041

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Born in Helsinki, the Finnish composer Tauno Marttinen (1912‑2008) lived even longer than his great countryman Sibelius, which is fortunate as he only seems to have found his feet as a composer in midlife. What helped Marttinen plant himself musically was his discovery of Schoenbergian serialism, soon adapted into something entirely personal.

The stylistic range is wide: Marttinen speaks with a modernist-expressionist accent one moment, shamelessly echoes high Romanticism the next. But the surprise isn’t so much in the eclecticism as in the speed with which the music vaults over stylistic hurdles. The Violin Concerto in particular is delightfully unpredictable, with an atmospheric slow movement – perhaps not quite ‘like the breath of God’, as Marttinen puts it, but certainly otherworldly.

A darker seriousness emerges in the Phantasy for Cello and Orchestra, but here again Marttinen’s very winning combination of playfulness and open-hearted Romanticism mean that the ear is always being led in surprising directions. Between these sits the Concerto classico, a title almost certainly conceived with a twinkle in the eye. Brahms is invoked, apparently without irony, then the strings are twisted and, historically speaking, we don’t know where we are. It makes  for a strangely refreshing experience. The performances sound perceptive and suitably zestful, and the recordings are warm and clear.

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Stephen Johnson