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Friday, February 24, 2017

Pehr Henrik Nordgren, Storm - Fear

There is a very dramatic component to the later music of Finnish composer Pehr Henrik Nordgren (1944-2008), at least as far as the three orchestral works on the recent release Storm - Fear (Alba Super Audio CD 399) are concerned. His is a high modernist, expressionist approach that breathes with arcs of narrative power.

The two concerted works, "Concerto No. 2 for piano, strings and percussion Op. 112" (2001) and "Concerto for piano left hand only and chamber orchestra, Op. 129" (2004) nicely showcase the dedicated interpretive poeticism of pianist Henri Sigfridsson  and the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra under Juha Kangas. The mutually rewarding relationship of the composer and the orchestra during his lifetime leaves us with performances that sound most definitive.

The "Song cycle to poems by Edith Sodergran for mezzo-soprano, strings and harp Op. 123" (2003) features the moving vocal performance of Monica Groop.

All three works have a somewhat dark demeanor, punctuated by glimpses of sunlight. Nordgren's sure hand and paramount mood-setting give us a strong wordless series of story lines (paralleled, of course in the song cycle with the poetry declamation) that contextualize the extended modernist palette in very personal ways.

This is not so much a music of virtuosity as that of character. All who bask in modernist tone painting will no doubt find this disk of high interest. Nordgren deserves remembrance and celebration, and we get the chance to do both in this highly attractive program.

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