Sallinen and Vivaldi on CPO

Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5
Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz; Ari Rasilainen

This sixth recording in CPO’s superb Sallinen Edition (CPO 999970) features performances of his Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5, led by conductor Ari Rasilainen and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz.

Acclaimed Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen was born in 1935in Salmi on the northern shore of Lake Ladoga (claimed by the Soviet Union in 1944). His extensive catalogue of compositions includes eight symphonies; multiple chamber works; vocal pieces that include Songs of Life and Death (1994) and the Barabbas Dialogues, Op. 84 (2003; CPO 777077); and six important large-scale operas: The Horseman (1975); The Red Line (1978); The King Goes Forth to France (1983); The Palace (1991-3); Kullervo (1988); and King Lear (1999).

Sallinen’s early experiments in serialism were short-lived and gave way to modernism, as evidenced in Mauermusik (1962), which featured microintervals and clusters. In the early 1970s, his music underwent another dramatic change: he returned to a sense of tonality, using simple themes, clear forms, and repetition in an almost minimalist fashion. Repeated notes, recurring linear seconds, and characteristic rhythmic motifs occupy a central position in his themes. Each motif repeats many times before moving on to the next.

Symphony No. 3 was composed in 1974-75 as a commission from the Finnish Broadcasting Organization and was the first of Sallinen’s symphonies to use a multi-movement form. It is scored for a large orchestra consisting of triple/quadruple woodwinds; a full complement of brass: three percussionists playing wood blocks, side drum, tom-toms, bas drum, cymbals, marimba, vibraphone, crotales, glockenspiel, and large tam-tam; and harp, piano, celesta, and strings.

Symphony No. 5 was composed in 1984-85 as a commission from the National Symphony Orchestra Association and was premiered at the Kennedy Center under its chief conductor Mstislav Rostropovich. Consisting of five sections, Symphony No. 5 has two broad movements bearing the subtitle Washington Mosaics, which encase three shorter Intermezzi. The fifth symphony is scored for an even larger ensemble than the third, requiring a percussion group of four players. Sallinen explained the subtitle “mosaics” as follows: “Movements of a symphony usually have their own material, but in this work a few motifs recur, like matching pieces of mosaics. The title Washington Mosaics sounds beautiful to me and gives the origin of the commission at the same time.”


Orlando furioso, Drama per musica, RV 728
Modo Antiquo
Federico Maria Sardelli

One of Vivaldi’s most important operas, Orlando furioso was composed in 1727 for the Teatro di Sant’ Angelo in Venice. Based on Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem, Orlando furioso is set on the island ruled by the sorceress Alcina and narrates Orlando’s tragic love for Angelica. This performance features the acclaimed Italian conductor Federico Maria Sardelli and his prizewinning Baroque ensemble Modo Antiquo (Atenaide/Naïve).

Featured in the title role is mezzo-soprano Anne Desler. The cast also includes British soprano Nicki Kennedy as Angelica, whose performance in Handel’s Semele had one critic commenting, “Nicki Kennedy gave a convincing performance of (Semele) as a voluptuous yielding coil of flesh who is at the same time possessive and demanding … she was beguiling in her aria with the mirror in Act III, a suavely ravishing coloratura aria.” Rounding out the cast are Italian mezzo-soprano Marina de Liso (Alcina), Luca Dordolo (Medoro), Martin Kronthaler (Astolfo), Lucia Sciannimanico (Bradamante), and French countertenor and conductor Thierry Grégoire in the role of Ruggiero. Grégoire’s performance of Ottone in Handel’s Agrippina received praise from Opera News’ William Braun, who wrote “Thierry Grégoire’s da capo of Ottone’s ‘Voi che udite’ is the musical highlight.”