Renate Eggebrecht Digs Finnish Composers!

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RAUTAVAARA: Variétude. AHO: Solo I (Tumultos). Sonata for Solo Violin. In Memoriam Pehr Henrik Nordgren. NORDGREN: Sonata for Solo Violin / Renate Eggebrecht, vln / Troubadisc LC 06206

German violinist Renate Eggebrecht presents here a program of music for solo violin by modernist Finnish composers. The Aho and Nordgren sonatas are world premiere recordings.

The program opens with the late Einojuani Ratauvaara’s Variétude, a strange piece that uses smeared tones to create a blurring of the tonality. The performer is also required to play several bowed chords and pizzicato passages and, at several points, two effects at the same time (bowed and pizzicato). It’s an interesting piece, but to my mind more effect than actual music; I wasn’t surprised, therefore, to learn that this was written as a competition piece for violinists. Virtuosic it most certainly is!

Next, we hear Kalevi Aho’s Solo I (Tumultos), and this is a much more structured and interesting piece. Here, too, Aho uses smeared tones in an almost microtonal manner, but in a fascinating context. The piece becomes increasingly busier and more complex as it proceeds.

The same composer’s solo violin sonata, which begins with a chaconne, is based more in tonality and, again, is superbly structured. Eggebrecht plays all of this music with passionate commitment and a strong, bright tone, very Jascha Heifetz-like in quality. The slow second movement is more tonal at the outset, although using pitch slides on the strings that sometimes blur its tonal center. The last two movements almost sound like a continuation of the second.

Pehr Henrik Nordgren’s sonata is much more “Nordic” in sound and feeling, capturing the cold, icy quality of Scandinavia in its edge-of-the-string sound and almost desolate, minor-key quality. Eggebrecht is truly outstanding in this piece, capturing the feeling of the work perfectly. Not too surprisingly, Aho’s piece In Memoriam Pehr Henrik Nordgren has much the same sort of feeling about it.

An interesting recital, to say the least! Well worth hearing, at least once.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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