Sallinen Symphony No 8; Violin Concerto
The title of Sallinen’s single-movement Eighth Symphony (2000-1), Autumnal Fragments, seems at odds with the music’s unbroken flow and much of the work’s dynamic arises from this tension between static and moving elements, encapsulated right at the start, dominated by the percussion. The process of integrating these irreconcilable elements has a kinship with that in Sallinen’s Fifth, Washington Mosaics, but the Eighth’s structure is more obviously integrated and quietly compelling. However, in the final section, with its desolate close, Sallinen decided to leave matters unresolved in the wake of September 11, 2001, which adds an additional resonance to his earlier use of the ‘Theme of the Dead' from his opera Kullervo.
There are closer operatic connections for two of the couplings. The orchestral prelude Shadows (1982) is based on themes from The King Goes Forth to France, while The Palace Rhapsody (1996) reuses material from The Palace of three years before. Both have been recorded before, Shadows most memorably by the composer’s long-standing champion, Okko Kamu. That account and James DePreist’s have the edge over Rasilainen’s version, which strikes me as a touch rushed – ironically, its very urgency, especially in the march episode, actually loses some of the mordant wit. Rasilainen fares better with The Palace Rhapsody.
The other major offering here is the early Violin Concerto (1968), one of the first works in which Sallinen’s mature voice can be heard, despite the pervasive influence of Shostakovich. This newcomer outshines Eeva Koskinen’s version: Kuusisto’s tone is fuller and warmer, and his playing suggests a deeper engagement with the music. Rasilainen’s accompaniment is excellent, reaping the benefit, perhaps, of Segerstam’s work with this orchestra. Recommended.