RÄIHÄLÄ Peat, Smoke and Seaweed Storm
There aren’t many classical works inspired by football – Benedict Mason’s opera Playing Away, Martinů’s Half-Time – but none hitherto on a single player that I know of. So who is the first to be immortalised, in Osmo Tapio Räihälä’s Barlinnie Nine (1999, rev 2005): Pelé, Maradona, Johan Cruyff? No, Duncan Ferguson, the troubled Everton and Scotland striker dubbed ‘Duncan Disorderly’. Räihälä describes his ‘musical portrait’ of Ferguson as an ‘Apotheosis of Underachievement’, though this does not fairly assess his post-modernist tone-picture.
Räihälä’s style is 21st-century tonal, often highly chromatic (for expressive reasons), occasionally polytonal, but skirts around atonality. All the works are descriptive, at least in generalised ways, rather than abstract, and structurally rather free. These facets are evident in the other orchestral works here, Iron Rain (2008) and Ardbeg (‘The Ultimate Piece for Orchestra’, 2003). Iron Rain is a vividly realised tone-poem whose title tells one all one needs to know, Ardbeg a paean to the renowned single malt and the island where it is distilled. The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra play all three works with finesse.
Two solo instrumental pieces separate the orchestral items: Solilioque 2 for horn (2012) and Aflao Highway (2011), a three-movement piano suite inspired by a Ghanaian road trip. The later is perhaps the least successful here, the relatively monochrome tonal palette not as engaging as in the other pieces. Jukka Harju’s virtuoso rendition of the less diffuse second Soliloquy, subtitled La tornade (complete with hints of the ‘raging storm’ that occurred during its recording), is more winning. This is a well-recorded disc of attractive music, well worth investigating.