I am never one to content myself with only the composers and works I already know. If that were the case I'd still be listening to around ten works! So when a teaser in a catalog noted that Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947) was known for the quality and daring of his modulations, I took the bait and requested a review copy of John Storgards conducting the Helsinki Orchestra in a program of Madetoja that includes his Symphony No. 2 (Ondine 1212-2).
I am glad that I did. Storgards gives us performances carefully hewned and majestic. Madetoja, not surprising, fits in with Sibelius as a romantic much more Scandinavian than Wagnerian or Mahlerian. There is a lyrical freshness, and yes, some very nice modulations, and a kind of sprawling thematic approach. These are very long-lined themes that take repeated hearings to digest. He does not have the sort of immediacy of a Sibelius, but that I suppose is what distinguishes him from the 20th century master.
The program includes the Second Symphony, plus his "Kullervo" and "Elegy". It all fits together as a good introduction to his music. After the usual five listens (for my reviews) I do not feel that I have fully digested the music. That either means it is not as memorable as a Sibelius, or that his music must be savored slowly and over a longer period of time.
Come to think of it, Sibelius took me a good time to get used to. Then around 30 years ago, on a flight from Chicago to New York, I listened many times to Sibelius's Fifth on the classical selection earphones (while gazing at the beautifully sunny sky outside my cabin window) and I had an epiphany.
So I await a similar epiphany. Meanwhile these are excellent performances. The repertoire adventurists out there will find something good here.