Kalevi Aho: Double & Triple Concertos. © 2021 BIS Records AB

CD Spotlight

Stimulating and Challenging

Concertos by Kalevi Aho, heard by GERALD FENECH

'Invigorating stuff in excellent sonics and detailed annotations.'


Born on 9 March 1949, Kalevi Aho is one of Finland's most prolific and respected composers still active today. Aho began his interest in music at the age of ten, when he discovered a mandolin in his home and began to teach himself how to play it. He was soon taken under the tutelage of Martti Loikkanen, founder of a local youth mandolin ensemble in Forssa. After learning how to read sheet music, Aho immediately started composing. Aho progressed so fast on the instrument that Loikkanen suggested he study the violin as well. As with the mandolin, the composer soon mastered the violin and his parents were quite supportive of his musical hobby, encouraging him to compose and giving him a piano at the age of fifteen.

In September 1968 Aho moved to Helsinki to study at the Sibelius Academy. He studied composition with the famous Einojuhani Rautavaara, beginning that year, and receiving a diploma in 1971. After continuing his studies in Berlin, his teaching positions include music theory at Helsinki University (1974-1988) and a professorship at the Sibelius Academy (1988-1993).

Aho has worked as a freelance composer with a state scholarship since 1993, and at present his residence is in Helsinki. Known principally as a composer of large-scale works, as of 2021 Aho has composed seventeen symphonies, thirty-six concertos, five operas and several vocal works. His chamber music includes several quintets, quartets, sonatas and solo works. His pieces from the late 1960s and early 70s show neo-classical traits as a preoccupation with counterpoint and stylized renderings of older forms.

In the following decade he turned to modernist and post-modernist styles, and his use of irony and juxtaposition of contrasting moods and musical styles and genres has been compared to Mahler and Schnittke.

Concertos for cor anglais are indeed a great rarity, and harp concertos do not crop up so easily. In combining the two, Aho has come up with a unique rarity – possibly the only double concerto in existence for these two instruments.

Listen — Kalevi Aho: Allegro (Double Concerto)
(track 3, 4:24-5:07) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

Composed in 2014, the work was commissioned by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra for two of its solo players, who also perform it on this recording. The piece is decisively eclectic, making the most of the sonic possibilities of the solo instruments, but also of the orchestral palette.

Listen — Kalevi Aho: First movement (Double Concerto)
(track 1, 3:57-4:55) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

The Triple Concerto is a commissioned work by the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and the Storioni Trio. In 2017, as Aho started work on the concerto, his granddaughter as born. Having written a lullaby for her, he decided to use that as the core melodic material of the piece. The lullaby is heard several times in the first movement, which is very tonal and very dreamlike.

Listen — Kalevi Aho: Lullaby. Andante (Triple Concerto)
(track 5, 0:03-1:03) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

It also features in the movements that follow, while the harmonic language becomes more complex. In the composer's words: 'The work has a general atmosphere full of joy and positive energy which is quite virtuosic'.

Listen — Kalevi Aho: Presto (Triple Concerto)
(track 6, 3:23-4:19) ℗ 2021 BIS Records AB :

This is a stimulating and challenging programme where the music is not easy to digest. But the fascination of it all is that, on repeated listening, everything becomes so accessible because Aho's musical language has the sincerity to identify itself with today's realities, good and bad. Invigorating stuff in excellent sonics and detailed annotations.

Copyright © 1 February 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta








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