Energy and calm
Stirring musical waters, with BASIL RAMSEY
Einar Englund, a Finnish composer who died last year at 83, was not well
known outside Scandinavia. Maybe records such as this on a budget label
will penetrate elsewhere. He had no compulsion to break new ground, finding
all he needed in a language that admitted the freedom of pre-serial Stravinsky
with some flavours of traditional music, maybe of his own land.
With some composers of similar inclination, output has been marred by
staleness that often deprives music of its necessity to grow. Englund has
a mindful vitality keeping the flow like water energised by the current.
Symphony 2 The Blackbird from 1948 -- the earliest here -- clearly
demonstrates both Englund's energy and calm. A claim that this is one of
the 'true' masterpieces of 20th century symphonic literature strikes me
as a step too far. Satisfying as it is, the immense power beyond reach of
most composers is not present. But it is a strong piece head and shoulders
over many symphonies of the mid-century.
Englund's fourth symphony opens to a wider canvas and strides with greater
determination. The landscape is at first grey [listen
-- track 7, 0:00-0:51] and certainly the composer's grasp of the elements
to be introduced is impressive, especially as the mood darkens to an even
I leave to last the piano concerto, which I'm surprised to discover is
so appealing and yet obviously unknown outside Scandinavia. I have therefore
chanced upon a work that could travel anywhere with a sure chance of a warm
welcome [listen -- track 4, 0:00-0:52]. Englund
wrote it for his own performance. The mood is often thoughtful, so the brilliance
is sharper when it is unleashed. I notice that Bartók is seen as
the influence: maybe, yet there is a good composer at work here with his
own ideas, and the partnership between piano and orchestra has its basis
in the older traditions.
Copyright © 22 November 2000
Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
CD INFORMATION - NAXOS 8.553758
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