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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev/Merikanto
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Sinfonia concertante; Cello Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Jan-Erik Gustafsson (cello); Finnish RSO/Sakari Oramo
It says much for the consummate talent and inspired vision of these young Finnish artists that Prokofiev’s postwar Sinfonia concertante sounds so well here. An arguably uneven reworking for Rostropovich of the Cello Concerto of 1938, it’s a work I’ve never really liked. This performance made me think twice, however – dramatically conveyed and powerfully unified, it opens up an unexpected scenario of Russian cantilena melody and ballet step.


In the Twenties, the Reger pupil Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) was a radical Finnish modernist. Later, in the interests of accessibility, he tempered his style and language, in the process turning into a bitter man, misunderstood and maligned. His three-movement Second Cello Concerto (1941-4) – an articulate example of mid-century tonal thought (Sibelian D minor), generous in ideas, with an abundance of rhythmic life, vocal eloquence and orchestral colour – is well worth a hearing. Under the imaginative and tight direction of their former leader, Sakari Oramo, the Finnish RSO offers admirable support throughout. Like many modern Nordic recordings, the sound image is big and spectacular with a physically involving balance, focused yet airy.