Kalevi Aho, Aho: Symphonic Dances / Symphony No. 11

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Symphonic dances from one today’s most approachable, yet also challenging, composers.

Kalevi Aho, now in his late fifties, is one of the most approachable, yet also one of the most challenging, of today's composers. Aho's Symphonic Dances emerged from a project he undertook to complete a ballet by his 19th-century predecessor Uuno Klami. Aho worked on the First and the Third Acts from which these Dances come. They're wildly colourful, inventive and very attractive, couched in a basically tonal language. The fourth Dance whips itself up into a frenzy before coming to a halt, turning into a beautiful elegy that could have been written by Vaughan Williams. The coupling, the Eleventh Symphony, was written for the opening of Sibelius Hall in Lahti and uses the amazing Kroumata Percussion Ensemble as well as the Lahti SO. The first two movements are thrilling and packed with drama, but it is the poised last movement, almost a study in stillness, that will haunt you for days.