WORKS: Symphony in F minor, Op. 4; Konzertstück, Op. 8
PERFORMER: John Storgårds (violin); Finnish RSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1019-2
The Finnish composer Ernst Mielck studied in Berlin with Max Bruch, who considered him his most talented student, but he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 21. Mielck was 19 when he completed his only symphony in 1897, two years ahead of SibeliusFirst, and for a brief moment some believed he would be a serious rival to his great compatriot. It’s an ambitious work, but Mielck was no Hans Rott: there’s not much in the score that’s particularly individual or forward-looking. The music is redolent of the Russian nationalists, possibly of Bruckner, even of early Sibelius. On the other hand, it’s well put together and carries quite a powerful expressive charge, making it at least as good as (say) Svendsen’s symphonies – though some of the goodwill is dissipated by the finale’s stop-start progress and not entirely convincing brassy apotheosis.
Bruch, and perhaps Tchaikovsky, seem to have provided the models for the mellifluous, bitter-sweet Konzertstück for violin and orchestra, written a year later. It’s a nicely balanced piece with a lyrical Andante main movement followed by a mazurka-like concluding section. John Storgårds is an eloquent soloist, while Sakari Oramo directs performances of obvious sympathy and commitment. Had he lived, Mielck might well have developed in stature, and in the context of Finnish music he deserves to be remembered; but for late 19th-century European music generally he remains something of a footnote. Calum MacDonald