AHO Chamber Symphonies Nos 1-3
Although three of Aho’s to-date 15 symphonies still await release from BIS (Nos 5 – available on Ondine – 6 and 15), the Swedish company has at last issued his three numerically separate string-orchestral chamber symphonies (recorded between 2005 and 2009). As might be expected, Aho’s – like Holmboe’s before him (and we still await their appearance in another of BIS’s major series) – are more compact in form and duration than their bigger brothers, though no less demanding in expression or execution.
The First (1976) and Second (1991-92) are both short single-movement designs, No 1’s opening darkly suggestive of the Fourteenth Symphony of Shostakovich, who had died the year before. Its cogent development moves quickly into recognisably Ahovian terrain, alternating calm with upheaval en route to its quiet coda. The Second is another virtuoso, expressive, complex structure, though without its predecessor’s progression from dark to light. The Third (1995-96) is considerably larger in scale (26') and deploys a solo alto saxophone in three of its four movements. Aho’s inspiration for the work came partly from North African heterophony.
The Tapiola Sinfonietta’s performances are splendid, crisp and lithe in Nos 1 and 2 under Asbury’s taut direction. Kantorow elicits more expansive but no less electric playing in No 3, where they partner Kelly (the original soloist on dazzling form here) as equals. BIS’s SACD recording is first-rate, the acoustic of the Tapiola Concert Hall affording these works the finest possible environment in which to be heard at their best.