Melartin: Violin Concerto, Op. 60; Suite lyrique No. 3 (Impressions de Belgique); Sleeping Beauty Suite

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LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Violin Concerto, Op. 60; Suite lyrique No. 3 (Impressions de Belgique); Sleeping Beauty Suite
PERFORMER: John Storgårds (violin); Tampere PO/Leif Segerstam
Erkki Melartin was ten years younger than Sibelius and supplanted him in the affections of his mentor, Martin Wegelius, whom he eventually succeeded as head of the Helsinki conservatory. Gifted though he was, he has never made many inroads into the concert repertoire. Melartin was something of a polymath, a gifted painter and a good linguist with an impressive knowlegde of literature. His Violin Concerto (1910-3), like the six symphonies, all available on the Ondine label, shows him as possessing considerable lyrical facility and no mean expertise in handling the orchestra. John Storgårds handles the formidable difficulties of the solo part with aplomb and conviction. At one point in the slow movement I was reminded of Delius (Track 2, 6:45″ in), and the very opening of the whole work sings a lush, modal threnody. The Suite lyrique is a set of impressions inspired by a visit he made to Bruges in 1914 which are often imaginative and atmospheric. The Sleeping Beauty Suite is drawn from the incidental music Melartin composed in 1911 for Topelius’s play of the same name. Unfortunately pleasure in this interesting repertoire is much diminished by the indifferent quality of the orchestral playing, and its raw-toned chording and flawed intonation. Try the ill-tuned closing bars of the finale of the concerto and you will see what I mean. Robert Layton