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Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958)


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Author Topic: Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958)  (Read 130 times)
kyjo
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« on: October 06, 2017, 06:51:41 am »

This disc has been one of my best discoveries of recent years:



The Piano Concerto no. 2 is an immensely appealing work that is notable for its episodes of quasi-Rachmaninoffian lushness. The outer movements of the Piano Concerto no. 3 are in a more spiky neoclassical style with resonances of Prokofiev and Bartok, but the middle movement (Pietá) is one of the most exquisitely beautiful movements I've ever heard. Its state of serene calm recalls the slow movement of the Ravel G major concerto. There is a brief, troubled middle section before the music returns to its opening calm in the form of a violin and piano duet. At only five and a half minutes in length I wish it were twice as long, but it still manages to transport me to another world in this amount of time. Here's the link to this extraordinary movement:



The remarkably concise Two Studies for Small Orchestra and Two Pieces for Orchestra on the same Ondine CD are also very much well worth checking out.

I've also listened to Merikanto's Concerto for Violin, Clarinet, Horn, and String Sextet (Schott Concerto), which is another wonderful work in a dark, densely chromatic style. Judging from what I've heard, Merikanto is a highly individual composer deserving of much wider attention. Interestingly, his style seems to have virtually nothing in common with his contemporary Sibelius, being much more cosmopolitan in outlook. I'm greatly looking forward to exploring his three symphonies and other works. Any other fans of his music here?
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Elroel
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2017, 11:18:32 am »

Aarre Merikanto was after WW II one of Finland's leading modern composers. In the 1960s and 70s, work of him came on Philips LP's, in the series Modern Music. His musical output differs very much from Sibelius's.
Of course, Merikanto wrote music through all of his life, where Sibelius skipped composing in earlier years of his.

I find Merikanto's 2nd symphony ('War Symphony') a very moving piece, although his 3td was more often performed (and recorded).
His opera 'Juha' from his younger years brought him fame (at least in Finland). In his latest years (in 1956) he wrote "Genesis" (for soprano,choir & orch).
His "Andante religioso" is a fine work and has been broadcasted several times and came on
Next to his piano concertos there are also at least 4 violin concertos. Nrs. 2 & 4 were recorded and sit in my
collection, but I must look for the source if I can upload them in our forum.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2017, 02:05:19 pm »

Merikanto is indeed a most interesting composer. The three symphonies are on the Alba label, the Second and Third Piano Concertos and the Second Cello Concerto on Ondine and the Second and Fourth Violin Concertos on Finlandia. The First Piano Concerto, the First Violin Concerto and the First Cello Concerto have never been recorded. The Third Violin Concerto is lost. Merikanto was a harsh and destructive critic of his own music.

As has been said he was not under thrall to the influence of Sibelius, nor was he influenced by the music of Shostakovich (not that I have any problems with composers who were Grin). As a consequence however his music suffered from periods of savage external criticism and thereby neglect.

Another Finnish composer whose music stands well outside the Finnish mainstream of its time and who equally deserves more recognition is the remarkable Ernest Pingoud (1887-1942) who, similarly, suffered from the rejection of the Finnish musical establishment and was also accused of "musical Bolshevism". Pingoud committed suicide. Merikanto drank too much (but then Sibelius did too Sad).
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Greg K
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2017, 06:44:56 pm »

The 1926 Konzertstuck for Cello & Small Orchestra I believe is the 1rst Cello Concerto, which most definitely HAS been recorded and issued on CD.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2017, 06:58:46 pm »

The 1926 Konzertstuck for Cello & Small Orchestra I believe is the 1rst Cello Concerto, which most definitely HAS been recorded and issued on CD.

My understanding is that the Cello Concerto No.1 in D major, op.21 dates from 1919 and lasts 22 minutes. The Concert Piece for Cello and small orchestra, commissioned by Lennart von Zweigberg, was premiered by Zweigberg in Zurich in October 1926 and lasts for 13 minutes. The Concert Piece is on a Finlandia cd.

http://vintti.yle.fi/yle.fi/sininenlaulu/yle.fi/teema/sininenlaulu/artikkeli.php-id=69.htm
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Greg K
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« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2017, 07:54:45 pm »

I see now you are right.  Challenging a master of composer discographies as I did without much hesitation was foolhardy.
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dhibbard
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2017, 08:00:45 pm »

we have some info also under the Finnish composers section:


He was the son of Liisa Häyrynen and the famous romantic composer, professor Oskar Merikanto. His childhood he spent in Vilppula, Finland. From year 1919, he was married to Meri Grönmark. He is considered a key figure in early Finnish modernism (together with Väinö Raitio and Ernest Pingoud) and several of his works, most notably the opera Juha, have obtained posthumous attention. As professor of composition in the Sibelius Academy (1951-1958) Merikanto taught several Finnish composers of the next generation, including Einojuhani Rautavaara, Usko Meriläinen, Aulis Sallinen and Paavo Heininen.

He studied music in Helsinki 1911, Leipzig 1912–1914 and Moscow 1916–1917. Merikanto's early style was rooted in Finnish romanticism, but in the 1920s he developed a personal, atonal but not dodecaphonic Modernist style. The reception of Merikanto's works of this period was mixed: the "Schott" Concerto for nine instruments was awarded in a competition organized by the German publishers Schott & Söhne, but his domestic Finnish audiences and critics were generally unenthusiastic and his opera Juha, today considered one of his major works, was never performed during Merikanto's lifetime. Disappointed with the reactions, starting in the early 1930s, Merikanto gradually abandoned his more radical style and turned towards a more traditional idiom based on Neoclassicism. He also destroyed or mutilated the scores of several works from his earlier style period, some of which were later reconstructed by his composition student Paavo Heininen.

Merikanto was diagnosed with lung something in the summer 1957, and he died the next year. His son is the sculptor Ukri Merikanto.

Main works
Juha (opera) completed 1922, premiered 1963
Symphonies I B minor 1916, II A major 1918, III 1953
Violin concertos I 1915, II 1925, III (destroyed) 1931, IV 1954.
Piano concertos I 1913, II 1937, III 1955.
Cello concertos I 1919, II 1941.
Symphonic poems Lemminkäinen 1916, Pan 1924, Notturno 1928,The Abduction of Kyllikki 1936
Schott Concerto for violin, clarinet, horn & string sextet 1925
Nonet 1926
Symphonic Study 1928
Fantasia 1923
Konzertstuck for Cello & Chamber Orchestra 1923
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2017, 08:45:19 pm »

I see now you are right.  Challenging a master of composer discographies as I did without much hesitation was foolhardy.

 
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