Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Juha Kangas (conductor)
Hans Keller once defined the symphony as 'the large-scale integration of contrasts'. Like Stravinsky's Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Symphone, by Lepo Sumera, who died in June, evokes the Greek 'sounding together' rather than traditional European symphonism, which is just as well because there is no integration, large-scale or otherwise, in its mosaic-like structure. Neither is conventional symphonism a notable feature of Onute Narbutaite's Symphony with Triangles, a complex mirror-fantasia for strings in which a few triangles provide a splash or two of colour (the title is a gimmick). The work does, however, satisfy Keller's dictum, taking contrasting musical material then fragmenting and mixing it together, albeit not exactly organically. Unwinding from its central point, the coda affords a new vista, an innovative take on the standard symphony's final big tune. According to Tuur, his Lighthouse (an allusion to Stravinsky's comment that certain composers had had a lighthouse-like influence down the ages) 'communicates with Bach's era in a rather abstract way'. If there is more juxtaposition than integration of its neo-baroque aspects within the generally minimalist idiom, the music does develop where Sumera's is static. Lighthouse is an odd choice for the title-track, seeming like an exercise in poster paints next to the impressive canvases of Narbutaite's Sinfonia or Vasks's Musica adventus. The latter is the 1996 orchestral arrangement of his Third String Quartet of the previous year. Even more than the original, Musica adventus has a Shostakovichian intensity and the gravitas of a true chamber symphony, especially in this searing performance. The Ostrobothnians are on top form throughout, beautifully recorded in crystal-clear sound. An intriguing collection.
Guy S. Rickards
(From: Gramophone, September 2000)