Ferling • Tulindberg • Byström

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COMPOSERS: Byström • Ferling • Tulindberg
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Classical Age in Finland
WORKS: Ferling: Violin Concerto in D; Contradances; Minuets; Tulindberg: Violin Concerto in B; Byström: Quadrille; Lithander: Arias
PERFORMER: Kreeta-Maria Kentala (violin), Herman Wallén (baritone); Sixth Floor Orchestra/Jukka Rautasalo
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 971-2

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Composers don’t come much more obscure than the four featured here, all of them active in Finland during the age of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. None is otherwise represented in the CD catalogue, while only Erik Tulindberg, described as ‘the first Finnish-born composer of repute’, gets an entry in Grove. Alas, on this showing their obscurity would seem well deserved. Both violin concertos – by Tulindberg and the court violinist Erik Ferling – have mildly agreeable Romanze-style slow movements. But their opening movements and minuet finales suffer from handicaps all-too-familiar in third-rate music of the Classical period: banal, short-breathed melodies, stagnant harmonies (especially in the Ferling, which barely ventures beyond tonic, dominant and subdominant) and a general air of amiable purposelessness. Both works could have been tossed off in no time by any half-competent Kapellmeister of the day. The two arias by Fredrik Lithander are equally stultified harmonically, though one of them, ‘May long on Aura’s banks’, does momentarily raise the pulse rate with its catchy, folk-like melody. Performances, on period instruments, are skilful and spirited, with a deft, sweet-toned contribution from violinist Kreeta-Maria Kentala. The line between charm and insipidity is a thin one in late 18th-century music. And I’m in no doubt which side of it these works belong.

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Richard Wigmore