Segerstam: Melartin - Violin Concerto, Sleeping Beauty Suite, Lyric Suite no.3 (FLAC)
Segerstam: Melartin – Violin Concerto, Sleeping Beauty Suite, Lyric Suite no.3 (FLAC)

Composer: Erkki Melartin
Orchestra: Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Leif Segerstam
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: Ondine
Size: 332 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 60: I. Allegro moderato
03. Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 60: III. Allegro molto vivace
04. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: I. La Cathedrale
05. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: II. Nocturnes (Bruges)
06. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: III. Scherzo
07. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: IV. Pastorale
08. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: V. Les Cloches
09. Lyyrillinen sarja No. 3 (Lyric Suite No. 3), “Impressions de Belgique”: VI. Hymne matinale
10. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: I. Overture
11. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: II. Menuetto
12. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: III. Valse
13. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: IV. Kuutamobaletti (Moonlight Ballet)
14. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: V. Grand valse
15. Prinsessa Ruusunen (Sleeping Beauty) Suite No. 1, Op. 22: VI. Haamarssi (Festive March)

Fine music in committed performances

Ondine has given us a marvelous series of the six symphonies by Erkki Melartin (1875-1937), a series anyone with even a passing interest in late- or post-romantic symphonic music should check out immediately. Of course, there are traces of Sibelius, but more in terms of overall mood than actual compositional techniques or thematic material in Melartin’s music, but there is also an individual voice, and quite clearly the presence of a strong melodic gift. The violin concerto here is a good example; written in 1911-13 (and revised in 1930) is wonderfully melodic, beautifully orchestrated and relatively well constructed (although the finale tends to be a little episodic) – it is in any case a captivating, truly memorable work. The slow movement is perharps the finest, but the whole work really deserves to be heard.

The Impressions de Belgique is, well, it is rather clichéd, to be honest, and overall a little bit syrupy in its desperate attempts to create vivid atmospheres. But even if it is a guilty pleasure (as Ketelbey would be a guilty pleasure for those who enjoy his music), it is still a pleasure. It contains some marvelous melodic ideas, and it is beautifully scored (the Scherzo perhaps in particular). The final movement, Hymne, is too banal for me, and a let-down after its evocative opening, however. The Sleeping Beauty suite is not particularly consequential although this too contains many fine things – the catchy Wedding March is apparently very popular in Finland.

The performances are excellent; Segerstam seems committed to make the music work as best it can, and leads some generally light-footed, colorful but full-blooded performances. Storgårds is an excellent soloist in the concerto and the sound quality is superb. While the violin concerto may warrant five stars, the music on this disc overall isn’t quite in the exalted league of the symphonies, and those who do not know the composer are advised to start there. Still, this is a rewarding release that deserves to be heard.

Romantic gems from Finland

Erkki Melartin (1875-1937)came from Karelia, Finland and local influences can be detected in most of his music. All his life he suffered from chronic ill-health which he strove to overcome. As well as composing (his opus numbers 189)he was also a painter of distinction. This Ondine disc recorded in 1999 is a treasure. The violin concerto dates from 1913 but was revised in 1930. It then appears to have been inexplicably consigned to the archives only to be re-discovered in 1997 by violinist and conductor John Storgards, who is the soloist. It is a wonderful romantic concerto with a virtuosic solo part and richly scored and demanding orchestration. The first movement is symphonic in its proportions; the slow movement, marked tranquillo, is sweetly melancholy and the finale dances along vivaciously. The performances under Leif Segerstam could not be bettered and the recording is first rate with none of the problems from the strings of the Tampere Philharmonic encountered on the Ondine recordings of Melartin’s symphonies. (See my review)The generously filled disc also includes Melartin’s Lyric Suite No 3 “Impressions of Belgium” and his incidental music to The Sleeping Beauty. The first is an atmospheric evocation of Bruges and the second is full of delightful melodic waltzes culminating in a Festive March that is apparently the most popular piece of music at Finnish weddings. All of this is music that should be in the regular international repertoire and I cannot recommend the disc too highly.

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