WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 2; Piano Concerto No. 3; Two Studies for Small Orchestra; Two Pieces for Orchestra
PERFORMER: Matti Raekallio (piano); Tampere PO/Tuomas Ollila
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 915-2
Though probably the most innately gifted Finnish composer in the generation after Sibelius, Aare Merikanto felt constrained to adapt his style to the limitations of audience taste, after his intense, visionary Expressionist works of the Twenties were cold-shouldered. His later music is consciously accessible in style and lighter, even popular in tone. Yet he was incapable of writing anything without refinement and penetration, as even the little pairs of orchestral studies here will testify: the first of the 1941 Orchestral Pieces develops its folk-like melody with superb resource and nobility.
The piano concertos presents him as a kind of Finnish Bartók, with a large admixture of Ravel (and smaller ones of Janácek and Messiaen). The recipe proves quite as tasty as you’d imagine. Concerto No. 2, in particular, is a tremendously attractive, enlivening work that deserves far wider international exposure than it’s had so far – it’s natural Prom material which audiences ought to take straight to their hearts. And the poise and haunting melodic simplicity of the Third Concerto’s ‘Pietà’ slow movement make this perhaps the most moving track on the disc. First-rate performances from soloist and orchestra: occasionally I felt Merikanto’s lively polyphony, especially in the Second Concerto’s tuttis, required more careful balancing. Calum MacDonald