TIENSUU Chamber Music
Jukka Tiensuu (b1948) never gives clues to the meanings of his works’ titles so it is more rewarding to focus on the music itself. Alba’s disc with the Plus Ensemble (a clarinet, accordion and cello trio which occasionally expands, as here, including Tiensuu himself) presents nine works. The opening Tango lunaire (1985) is a fine dance fantasy with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Its wry humour is central to the concluding Tombeau de Beethoven (1980), in which clarinet, cello and piano juxtapose a web of sampled Beethoven quotations with their own acoustic versions: listen for the Fifth Symphony’s coda for cello alone! The major unaccompanied item is five (of 14) movements from Erz for accordion (2007), commissioned by Denis Patkovic´ as interludes in his Hänssler recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. It can be played separately in any sequence or selection; Mikko Luoma’s cherry-picked set makes a fine textural contrast between Beat for clarinet, cello and piano (1997) and the scintillating Rubato (1975), scored for “any ensemble”; here flute and violin join the Plus Ensemble. The spatial opportunities afforded live by the “walking bass clarinettist” (originally bassoonist) in Asteletsa (1999) do not replicate so well on disc. Like oddjob for cello and electronics (1995), Prélude non-mesuré (1976) is a more elusive piano study. Normally running for eight to 15 minutes, Tiensuu rattles through in under six and a half!
The only piece for the core Plus Ensemble itself is Plus IV (1992) which, like Beat, shows Tiensuu working convincingly in larger time frames. Ondine’s disc features three works composed in 2007‑08 and running for longer durations still. The three-in-one design of Vie (French “life” or the English verb for “strive”?), subtitled a “concerto for orchestra”, makes for a vital and invigorating concert-opener. The suite False Memories I‑III (subtitled “Morphoses”) is of similar outward design, fast outer sections framing a quiet central span. In between comes Tiensuu’s third concertante work for clarinet, Missa, the six movements linking to sections of the Catholic Mass. Kari Kriikku and John Storgårds – who premiered the work in Glasgow – provide a vivid account.
The recorded sound on both discs is first-class, though Ondine’s is richer and more spacious. Comparing the two programmes, Ondine’s is the more satisfying but Alba’s – a bit of a rag-bag, true – perhaps provides the deeper insights into the composer’s sound world. As they are not rivals, my recommendation is to buy both!