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ClassicsOnline Home » 20TH CENTURY MUSIC FOR FLUTE AND ORCHESTRA
Aulis Sallinen is among the best known contemporary Finnish composers. Born
in Salmi in 1933, he studied composition with Arre Merikanto and Joonas Kokkonen
at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and subsequently joined the teaching staff
there, after serving for ten years as executive director of the Finnish Radio
Symphony Orchestra. An award from the Finnish government in 1976 enabled him
thereafter to devote his full attention to composition. He is a member of the
Swedish Royal Academy of Music and in 1983 was joint recipient, with Krzysztof
Penderecki, of the Sibelius Prize of the Wihuri Foundation. Sallinen's compositions
include five operas, ballets and a number of orchestral works, symphonies, concertos
and sets of variations. His chamber music includes a number of string quartets.
Sallinen's Concerto for flute and orchestra, Opus 70, commissioned by
the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, was completed in 1995 and dedicated to
the well-known flautist Patrick Gallois. The concerto, given the title Harlekiini,
is scored for four string quartets, six brass-players and a number of wind and
percussion instruments, the last placed mid-stage to give a stereophonic division
between strings and brass. It is in four connected sections and opens with evocative
orchestral sonorities, before the entry of the solo instrument into what are
firmly tonal textures. To the orchestral chords the flute adds fragments of
melody, based on recurrent figures and motifs, passed from soloist to orchestra.
The Adagio section that follows harsh accompanying tone-clusters, offers
an element of relative tranquillity, the flute solo now accompanied by dense
orchestral chords and by a percussion counterpoint. The third section is introduced
by the soloist, after the interweaving of the flute and solo violin line. Related
material, sometimes angular in outline and often fragmentary in form, is passed
between the participants, varying in mood from the meditative to the energetic,
before a gong initiates the fourth and final section. Here a prolonged flute
solo, suggesting a cadenza, leads to the return of the orchestra in all its
varied instrumental colourings and to a conclusion that seems to leave much
The Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu provides a remarkable conjunction of East
and West. He was largely self-taught, apart from some private study with Yosuji
Kiyose, under whose auspices his first music was performed. In 1951 he joined
Joji Yuasa and Kuniharu Akiyama in the Experimental Workshop (Jikken Kobo),
an organization that aimed to bring together all the arts and offered a varied
musical repertoire of contemporary composers. In the following decade he achieved
wide recognition as a composer himself, influenced at first by contemporary
French composers and then, from 1961, by John Cage. Over the years he won esteem,
signalled by many international awards and prizes. In the 1960s he also began
to explore the use of Japanese instruments in a contemporary Western musical
context, particularly in works for the biwa (Japanese lute) and shakuhachi
(Japanese flute), instruments that he featured in a 1967 commission for
the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He provided music for some ninety films,
including Akira Kurosawa's Ran in 1987. He died in 1996.
In a lecture given in Tokyo in 1984 Takemitsu pointed out that programme notes
were unnecessary, since a listener should hear everything in the music itself.
Nevertheless he went on to stress the importance of words and the importance
he himself attached to titles, over the choice of which he took great trouble.
His Toward the Sea was originally written for alto flute and guitar,
a combination of instruments that must recall the shakuhachi and biwa
which, in the hands of some modern Japanese composers have something of
Ravel or Debussy about them. Takemitsu's work was arranged in a second version
for alto flute, harp and strings and first performed in this form in Sapporo
in 1981. As so often, poignant use is made of silence in all three movements,
with their subtle nuances of flute tone. Although the movement titles suggest
the work of Herman Melville, the music itself paints another picture. Takemitsu
himself spoke of his music as fragments thrown together, as if in a dream, creating
imaginary soundscapes, be it the serenity of night or, as in the third movement,
the evocative dawn over the tranquil sea.
Born near Kraków in 1933, Krzysztof Penderecki had early encouragement
in his musical ambitions and studied at the Kraków Conservatory, where
he subsequently taught, later becoming rector. In his years as a student he
was at first tempted to become a violinist, but later turned exclusively to
composition. His first great success came in 1959 when he entered three of his
compositions, anonymously, according to the rules, in a competition run by the
Polish League of Composers, winning the three first prizes. It was not long
before he began to win a much wider reputation, with performances abroad of
works such as Anaklasis, given at Donaueschingen in 1960 and his Threnody
for the Victims of Hiroshima, played at the ISCM Festival three years later.
In 1966 his St Luke Passion was performed at Münster Cathedral and
his opera, based on John Whiting's dramatization of Aldous Huxley's novel, The
Devils of Loudun, written in 1968, gradually achieved success with powerful
and imaginative directors. Ten years later came his operatic treatment of Milton's
Paradise Lost, based on a dramatic version by Christopher Fry. Penderecki
has enjoyed a busy international career, conducting performances of his music
and serving as a visiting professor in America. He remains a leading figure
in the Polish music of his generation.
Penderecki's Concerto for flute and chamber orchestra was completed
in December 1992 and is in one continuous movement, although the tracks given
mark some of the changes in mood. It is scored for a varied orchestra with an
extended percussion section and is dedicated to Jean-Pierre Rampal. Penderecki
is eclectic rather than doctrinaire in his choice and use of musical materials
and makes considerable use of the varied instrumental timbres available to him,
while his writing for the flute itself lacks the varied nuances that Takemitsu
could derive from Japanese and Chinese musical tradition.
A clarinet starts the concerto, presenting fragments of melody to which the
solo flute responds and which will form the basis of what follows. A passage
for flute alone ends in a short chromatic melodic figure that is inverted and
explored as the music increases in momentum. A flute cadenza is followed by
a passage marked Vivace in which the two melodic figures, one angular
and wide-spaced and the other chromatic, are featured. There is an intervention
by the trumpet and suggestions of Baroque counterpoint, which are to return.
Track  of the present recording is marked Andante and offers a moment
of rest and poignancy in its descending melodic line and its oscillating flute
octaves. There is an increase in harmonic tension before the energetic Allegro
con brio, with its fierce tom-tom accompaniment. The flute, following the
percussion, introduces a further melodic fragment for development. An Adagio
brings, as at the beginning of the work, a duet between a clarinet and the soloist,
but the pace soon increases, bringing a passage for solo flute, briefly accompanied.
An angular Vivace offers music of increased ferocity and then interrupted
passages of Andante recitativo for the flute. The oscillating octaves
and descending melodic line of the central Andante return and it is in
this mood of melancholy that the work ends, with a final resolution on a chord
of G, its major third implied.
The Tapiola Sinfonietta was established in 1988, with the immediate aim of
distinguishing itself in both repertoire and sound from other Finnish orchestras.
It has a string section of 27 players, with double woodwind and two horns. Artistic
directors of the orchestra have included Jorma Panula, Juhani Lamminmäki
and Osmo Vänskä, followed, in 1993, by the appointment of the French
violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow, under whose direction the orchestra
has achieved the highest international standard. The repertoire of the orchestra,
which corresponds in size to many orchestras of the Viennese Classical period,
ranges from the Baroque to the contemporary.
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20TH CENTURY MUSIC FOR FLUTE AND ORCHESTRA