AHO Works for Solo Piano
Kalevi Aho may not be as well known for his solo music as for his orchestral but he makes his mark in any medium he turns his hand to. His half a dozen piano opuses are here laid out in roughly ascending order of sophistication.
The 19 Preludes of 1965 68 show the talented schoolboy composer trying on various outfits for size, from Bach to Bartók, via Schumann and others. With the Three Small Piano Pieces of 1971 – the time of his Third Symphony – richer harmonic colours appear, along with more oblique counterpoint and more adventurous textures, while the Two Easy Piano Pieces for Children – part of a set of commissioned pedagogic pieces – pick up on the witty touches of some of the Preludes. Also written for young performers, the Sonatina of 1993 is rather more than Gebrauchsmusik, with its run-around Toccata, austere Andante and clamorous finale suggesting an affinity with the recently lamented John McCabe.
Much reliant on cluster-based harmony and tremolos, the 11-minute Solo II (from 1985, the second of a superb ongoing cycle of Solos for various instruments) betrays its origins as a competition piece for the Sibelius Academy, though its athleticism eventually gives way to troubled reflection. The three-movement, 14-minute Sonata of 1980 is altogether more ambitious in its attempted fusion of substance, soundscape and virtuosity – as stretching for the performer as it evidently was for the composer. Sonja Fräki rises to the challenges of the Sonata, as of all the music on the disc, and she supplies an informative and sympathetic booklet essay.