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Veli-Matti Puumala (born 1965) is one of the leading composers of the younger generation in Finland. He constructs works in large paragraphs, with one foot in late modernism (like Lindberg and Saariaho, he was a pupil of Heininen) and the other in the mainstream traditions of Western music. His piano concerto Seeds of Time (2004) is a superb example of his more recent output, playing here for just over 39 minutes: a dramatic, colourful score with a virtuosic solo part, cast in three movements (which play continuously).

This work differs in crucial ways from the conventional norm: it shuns the ‘solo versus orchestra’ approach typical of many works in the regular repertoire; and the thematic development uses melodic seeds to portray aspects of time, separated by static ‘windows’ defined by specific timbres.

After the hectic opening Turba (‘Disturbance’) and central Premura (‘Haste’), the finale is a restrained and mostly quiet nocturne, Tra le Braccia della Notte (‘The Arms of the Night’). The one or two noisy interruptions along the way do not detract from a unique concluding movement to a piano concerto: imagine if Beethoven’s Fourth had switched the order and lengths of its final two of movements. Pöntinen’s pianism is tested here and wins out with finesse.

The coupling of the purely orchestral Chainsprings (1997) shows off Puumala’s orchestrational invention to full and sustained effect, with some cheeky allusions to other musics, Western and more exotic. Puumala’s personal voice may not be the most distinctive, but there is no denying the power of his creative personality.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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