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Arto Noras, whose father was principal bassoonist of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, showed a precocious talent and at the age of eight was accepted at the Sibelius Academy. He later became a pupil of Paul Tortelier in Paris, after which he won a number of high-profile awards. Noras divides his time between teaching, solo work, and chamber music playing, and one of his greatest accomplishments is the founding of the Naantali Music Festival, where he is also artistic director. His rôle in the Sibelius Academy Quartet (of which the other members are Seppo Tukiainen and Erkki Kantola, violins and Veikko Kosonen, viola) affords him an element of balance in his performance activities: he has spoken of the more democratic ideal of playing chamber music and the appeal that collective responsibility has in such circumstances for the development of an agreed interpretation. Noras has recorded fairly widely and in an eclectic repertoire, as the selections here show.

The Cello Concerto by Arthur Bliss is a seldom performed work but one of great intensity, unifying the recognised elements of English nostalgia with a notably more modernist tendency (as in the strong-gestured opening), and is performed with aplomb by Noras in this recording from relatively early in his career (1976). In more overtly progressive music his Penderecki Divertimento (2001) evidences confidence and understanding of this strongly distinctive musical style, whilst Schnittke’s Musica Nostalgica, a laconic little essay in an older style of writing (2007, recorded live at the Kronberg Cello Festival ‘in remembrance—celebrating Slava’), is played with humour and character.

As a stylist, Noras is very much in the modern mould, with a moderate aesthetic approach which adapts well to musical context. He does not pursue authentic performing practice particularly consciously, but considers thoughtfully, for example, what degree of vibrato might be appropriate to his chosen repertoire. The Haydn and Shostakovich items (1997) are thus much as we have come to expect, whilst the Brahms Op. 38 Sonata (1996) takes a steady if slightly static stance in the often complex textures between the instruments, although it does elucidate the music very well.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

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11:01:34 PM, 26 May 2016
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