Merikanto: Works for Organ (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Merikanto
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Works for Organ (complete)
PERFORMER: Jan Lehtola (organ)
Oskar Merikanto, if the booklet notes are to be believed, was the great white hope of the Finnish musical world. Born in 1868 of working-class parents, he rose to be Finland’s premier organ virtuoso and toured the world playing his own music, as well as helping set up the Opera in Helsinki and writing for the principal daily newspaper. But the hyperbole protests rather too much, methinks. Merikanto was in reality a humble parish organist for over 30 years, and wrote the sort of music you might expect a parish organist to write. Like the man and his career, it is music that gets stuck in a rut, circling around the same key for what seems like an eternity. It is also tune-obsessed music that latches on to the basest nationalism through its inclusion of what were presumably stirring anthems of the day. And I wish I could say that the performance lifts the music from its turgidity, but even the three tub-thumping Postludes (with something of an Edwardian swagger about them) do not really thump as they ought on the chosen instrument, which has pedigree enough, but lacks presence. The 1916 Walcker organ in Doesburg would be much better served if it were dishing up some Reger or Liszt. William Whitehead