SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 7 in C minor, Op. 60
Russian National Orch/Paavo Järvi, cond.
PENTATONE SACD 186 511 TT: 72:59

SIBELIUS: Lemminkäiubeb Legends, Op. 22. Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49
Finnish Radio Symphony Och/Hannu Lintu, cond.
ONDINE SACD ODE 1262 TT: 61:40

FAGERLUND: Violin Concerto "Darkn ess Into Night." Ignite.
Pekka Kusisto, violin; Finnish Radio Symphony Orch/ Hannu Lintu, cond.
BIS SACD 2093 TT: 56:56

Shostakovich's mighty "War" symphony, the Symphony No. 7, was composed in 1939-1940, originally dedicated o the life and deeds of Vladimir Lenin, but in 1941 changed he dedication to the city of Leningrad. It requires a huge orchestra and there have been many recordings. This site has mentioned Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw (REVIEW), Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic (REVIEW),Grgiev with the Mariinsky Orchestra (REVIEW), and Dmitri Yablonsky with the Russian State Symphony (REVIEW). And there are numerous memorablehistoric performances including those by Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, Vassily Petrenko, Bernard Haitink and Yvgeny Mravinsky, to mention only a few. Pentatone is recording all of the symphonies with the Russian National Orchestra and thus far has issued Nos. . 11 and 15 with Mikhail Pletnev, Nos. 5 and 9 with Yakov Kreizberg, Nos. 1 and 6 with Vladimir Jurowski, and No. 8 with Paavo Berglund. This new recording with Paavo Järvi and the same orchestra has keen competition, but it holds up well. Järvi is a dynamic conductor, and the recording, made in the Great Hall of the Moscow Con Conservatory in February 2014, is an example of the label's best audio, not particularly "surround," but super-clear and impactfu—surely one of the finest recordings available of this symphony.. a

The second of Sibelius's Four Lemminkäinen Legends, The Swan of Tuoela, is a concert hall favorite, but the other three movements (Lemminkäinen and the Maids of the Island, Lemminkäinen in Tuonela, Lemmnkäinen's Return) are among his most powerful compositions. Sibelius. It was composed in the early ;1890's and originally intended to be a large-scale opera, but ended up as a four-movement orchestral suite depicting episodes n the life of Lemminkäinen, a character in the Finnish national epic The Kalevala. It was a favorite of Eugene Ormandy who recorded it twice with the PhiladelphOrchestra. His 1953 Columbia mono recording has been reissued on Pristine (REVIEW), his 1978 stereo EMI performance currently is not available but worth searching for. This score requires a big orchestral sound, and the Philadelphians surely could supply it. This new Ondine issue would seem to have some special authenticity with the Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu leading the country's fine radio orchestra. The recoding's we made in Helsinki's Music Center in October 2014 (Lemminkäinen) and November 2014. The sound is ultra-clear and defined but a touch lacking in rich string sonority. However, this is a worthy presentation of these Sibelius masterpieces.

The Finnis Radio orchestra and Hannu Lintu also are featured in an outstanding BIS SACD of music of another Finnish composer,, Sebastian Fagerlund. Born in 1972, his writing is is impressionistic, modern, , minimalist, and his rich orchestrations explore the depths of orchestral sound. Often there is a nightmarish element, with stark harmonies and clashing rhythms. Dissonance is par for the course, but it does make a statement that fits the overall score. The Violin Concerto "Darkness in Night," was composed for Pekka Kunisto. CD notes say the orchestra is" cosmic purgatory," an apt description Fagenlund has referred to the solo violin as a "Don Quixote" resence struggling against the ominous orchestral world. It is a fascinating work and must be incredibly difficult to play with its countless endless double, triple and quadruple stops. The second movement offers some relief from the chaos, but it returns in the finale which quotes snippets of other violin concertos. According to the composer, the title refers to the subtle narrative style of Japanese author Haruki Murakmi who mixes reality and the surreal. Fagenlund surely pictures this approach in his fascinating concerto. I've never heard anything like it, and will listen to it often. The concerto is paired with another major work of the Finnish composer, Ignite, commissioned by e Finnish Broadcasting Company in 2010. In it the composer deals with his fascination with spirals of all shapes, colliding with each other in loud, imaginative ways. There are five sections to this half-hour work, contrasting bombast with serene but troubling quieter interludes. It is a feast for those who love big orchestral sound and lots of percussion, and the performance here surely could be called definitive. Both recordings were made late in 2013 in the Helsinki Music Center, the same venue as the Sibelius SACD reviewed above. Here the engineers have provided a far darker sonic picture of remarkable clarity and impact. This is an extraordinary issue of music by a major young Finnish composer in perfect performances magnificently recorded. Don't miss it!

R.E.B. (April 2015)