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Cat. No. CHAN 6626(2) Price: £9 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 6626 - Madetoja: Symphonies
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Available From: 20 July 2000
‘You are in possession of the properties that make a symphony composer’ wrote Sibelius of his pupil. The First Symphony, written from 1914 to 1916, is amongst the most mature of first symphonies. The main theme of the ‘Allegro’ first movement is a short, incisive motif, typical of the composer in that its harmonic background is an essential part of its character. The ‘Lento misterioso’ is lyrical and descriptive in a way typical of Madetoja’s slow movements. The first movement themes return for the Finale which upset the contemporary listeners, for in the culmination of this F major work it staggers to C major and finishes on an A major chord.

The monumental and tragic Second Symphony (1916–18) had for Madetoja dark personal overtones, the composer losing both his brother and a close friend at this time. It is a symphony of beauty, nature, war and resignation – sentiments which dominate its four parts, the last being a short epilogue. The ‘Allegro moderato’ first movement is one of the purest expressions of Madetoja’s ‘philosophy of beauty’. It ends on a dissonant chord, and leads directly into the pastoral slow movement. The third movement combines elements of scherzo and finale, but is by no means playful or jovial. The short ‘attacca’ Epilogue ends the E flat major work in a modal E minor.

The Third Symphony (1925–6), is the most mature of his symphonic output, and was well received on its first performance. Madetoja had been regarded as a composer of elegiac and tragic sentiment in his music, and therefore the luminous and well-proportioned ‘classical’ character of this symphony came as something of a surprise. The first movement leaves behind sonata form and the music flows without great gestures. Numerous motivic and contrapuntal intricacies abound such as canons and augmentations. Again the peaceful second movement uses canons and augmentation. The Scherzo is one of Madetoja’s most genial melodic inventions. The Finale begins solemnly but soon loses the ceremonial air when the ‘Waltz in even metre’ is reached, but solemnity returns before the Symphony withdraws into its own secretive world.

The ‘Comedy Overture’ represents the core of Madetoja’s art; restrained spirit and well-proportioned classicism, saying much, using little. The ‘Okon Fuoko’ Suite was intended to be one of three gathered from the one-act ballet, but only one was accomplished. The work was only performed three times, due largely to the dramatic weakness of the libretto. ‘The Ostrobothnians Suite was gathered from the first two acts of the opera before it was completed and gives a good picture of Madetoja’s ability to paint musical landscapes.
Reviews

‘…finely played by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra under conductor Petri Sakari…’
Classic CD

‘The Iceland Orchestra give dedicated and persuasive accounts…’
The Penguin Complete Guide

‘The Chandos recording is very naturally balanced and difficult to flaw.’
The Penguin Complete Guide

‘The pleasures of the three Madetoja symphonies are considerable… admirably recorded and out of Chandos’ top drawer’.
Gramophone

 

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