|About this Recording
8.553758 - ENGLUND: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 4 / Piano Concerto No. 1
Einar Englund (1916-1999)
"I can see your destiny in your
eyes. You will become an accomplished composer."
Einar Englund (b. 1916), a Swedish-speaking Finn, can be described as a composer of great versatility: a symphonist, a second-generation Neo-Classicist, a reformer of Finnish music He was the first major representative of the "lost generation" - young men who had sacrificed their youth to the war - among Finnish composers, and the first seriously to challenge the status of Sibelius and Madetoja as Finnish symphonic composers and to guide musical trends away from the uncritical idealisation of National Romanticism. However, Englund seems to have remained, through no fault of his own, in the shadow of the great master of Ainola, Sibelius.
Even so, Englund's contribution to the genre of symphonic music has been great. the first performance of his Symphony No.1, "War Symphony", in 1947, was greeted with tumultuous acclaim. This, and the Symphony No.2, "Blackbird", first performed in 1948 and attracting perhaps even more public interest, are in a way a nod of acknowledgement to Sibelius. Both depict the horror and everyday reality of war. Heikki Aaltoila, a music critic with the Uusi Suomi newspaper, described Englund's Second Symphony, in which the flute and other wind instruments playa major role, as "a sarcastic statement by a rebellious soul on the brutality of Man and our distorted civilisation, compared with the purity of Nature". The Second Symphony was gradually forgotten until recent recordings, which have sparked new interest in it. David Hurwitz, writing in Fanfare, described the symphony as a true masterpiece in the symphonic literature of this century.
In 1955, Englund took part in a competition to write a concerto for piano and orchestra, organized by the Finnish Cultural Foundation. He won the competition, with Aarre Merikanto in second place. This concerto, which many feel is related to the music of Bartók, has become one of the most frequently performed Finnish piano concertos. Its themes are derived from the yoik, the vocal style of the Sámi people of Lappland, the same music that the composer drew on for his score for the film The White Reindeer. Englund wrote the work for himself, being an accomplished pianist and above all a fantastic improviser. "...The cadenza in the printed score is identical with the one that the artist improvised at the memorable concert where composer and pianist fused into an ideal symbiotic entity," the composer writes.
The music of Igor Stravinsky and Dmitry Shostakovitch made a profound impression on Englund, and when these composers died in the 1970s he was inspired to write a symphony "to the memory of a great composer". Englund relates: 'Their passing touched me deeply and prompted me to write a work to enshrine their careers... I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of profound grief and nostalgia that affected me by using musical images of my own memories, partly conflicting, partly ridiculous." Thus Symphony No.4 reflects not only Shostakovitch and Stravinsky, but Englund himself and his life.
The Fourth Symphony ("Nostalgic") opens, exceptionally, with a slow movement. The second movement draws upon a memory from the composer's childhood summers on the Baltic island of Gotland; hence the title, Tempus jugit. The third movement contains an allusion to Sibelius's Tapiola, perhaps in gratitude for the short moment that the young composer spent in Ainola with Sibelius. The last movement is sombre and even threatening. "At the end of this movement and the symphony, the music subsides, with nostalgia and melancholy, into a silence black as night...," the composer writes. The premiere of the Fourth Symphony was conducted by Jorma Panula in 1976 and the critics received it warmly: "...[Englund's] composer profile has gained an added dimension of profundity.." (Seppo Heikinheimo, in the broadsheet Helsingin Sanomat) "...an ascension towards nobility..." (Heikki Aaltoila, in Uusi Suomi).
Englund wrote seven symphonies, six concertos for solo instruments and a large number of other works (including music for the film The White Reindeer and for the play The Wall of China, the ballets Sinuhe and Odysseus (Ulysses), and numerous chamber music and solo instrument works), He died on 27th June, 1999.
To sum up, we may quote what Englund has said about music' "Music on paper is nothing! It does not exist! Notes are strange hieroglyphics, notated musical thoughts that have been created in the human brain, Music does not exist until the moment the musician makes those mystical signs come alive and turn into sound, As soon as the sound stops, the music no longer exists - it reverts to strange hieroglyphics, To silence!"
Quotations from Einar Englund: Sibeliuksen varjossa, Otava 1997
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
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