Review By David Denton, Naxos,March 2009
Though given titles, the disc’s two major works are flute and clarinet concertos from one of Finland’s most prolific contemporary composers. Kai Nieminen, born in 1953, started life as a guitarist, but later went on to study composition, the two careers having since run in parallel. The present disc could be called ‘classical mood music’, and avoids any specific school of composition, freely moving between tonality and atonality with colours seemingly Nieminen’s major attraction. The opening movement of Palomar, for flute and chamber orchestra, could be the backdrop of a film, iridescent colours flitting through the pictures of Sunset. It is aview of tranquility that contrast with the following Night, Old People and where the flute pirouettes around a more static accompaniment. A vision of disturbed dreams, in People who sleep badly, opensthe Clarinet Concerto that carries the title Through Shadows I can Hear Ancient Voices. The following movement, The Toilers of the Sea, finds the feeling of unease spilling over from the previous movement, the soloist and orchestra often following different musical languages. There is a cadenza of enormous difficulty shared by percussion instruments, and a subsequent one that links the second and third movements. This finale, Don’t seek and don’t believe, projects thethought that nothing matters. Fast and furious, it requires dexterous fingers from the soloist. Both date from the 21st century, Nieminen’s first short orchestral score from 1995, Vicoli in ombra (Alleys in Twilght), completes the disc.As the soloists are those for which the concertos were composed—Patrick Gallois (flute) and Mikko Raasakka (clarinet)—we must regard the performances as being to the composer’s wishes. The playing of the Sinfonia Finlandia is suitably atmospheric. Excellent sound.