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This disc was recorded in the presence of the composer, and it is worth noting that Fräki has written a doctoral thesis on Kalevi Aho’s piano music (inevitably, perhaps, she provides her own booklet notes).

Aho, who studied with Rautavaara, has written only six pieces for piano, so this disc represents his complete works for the instrument so far. He wrote the Preludes (1965-1968) as a teenager and originally intended to pay tribute to Chopin with a total of 24, but finally settled for 19. There is great depth in Aho’s simplicity of writing, even at this early age, and Chopin’s influence is audible every now and then. Bach is also there, and indeed, No 16 is modelled on one of the Two-Part Inventions. It is difficult to imagine a more committed interpreter, or one better equipped, than Fräki.

If the Sonatina of 1993 is impressive for its Bartókian ruggedness, the uncompromisingly modernist Solo II (1985) is a work of pure genius and should be far better known. The tempering beauty of the final pages extends its expressive scope massively. The Piano Sonata (1980) is deliberately extremely technically taxing. Stunningly conceived and stunningly executed by Fräki, it is surely one of Aho’s finest works. A mere 14 minutes in duration, it encompasses a world of emotions.

Sonically, this is one of BIS’s finest piano recordings. As a monument to one of our most stimulating living composers, it is invaluable.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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