Outi Tarkiainen: Midnight Sun Variations, Milky Ways (Concerto for cor anglais and orchestra), Songs of the Ice, The Ring of Fire and Love;

Nicholas Daniel, cor anglais, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Nicholas Collon

Outi Tarkiainen from the Sami region of Finland sees her works as a testimony to the world around her. She sees music as a force of nature that can flood a person and even change destinies. With her works, she creates close connections to nature. In the pieces she has recorded, there is also a connection to another special aspect, namely her own motherhood and the moments surrounding childbirth.

The composer, in her fourth decade of life, explains this connection from her origins in the far north, where nature is far more decisive for life. Cycles such as the seasons or the course of life are constant companions and inextricably linked to the individual. Musically, she expresses this in such a way that her music is based on organic processes and principles such as variations, even if not necessarily in the music-historical sense, without being specifically programmatic.

‘Midnight Sun Variations’ is about light, or rather its absence for months on end, and demonstrates her approach to timbre, which manifests itself in an enormous richness and wide range of coloration.

‘Songs of the Ice’ can be seen as a sibling work to this. The natural phenomenon to be heard is ice, which is subject to seasonal fluctuations, bringing a fragile moment into play against the backdrop of climate change. Both works can be heard separately or together in any order. Here, the composer also describes the emptiness and the process of re-closure that begins in a woman’s body when she separates from the life within her at birth.

‘The Ring of Fire and Love’ thematizes the connection between the geothermal and the human birth of a child. The term refers to the volcanic belt surrounding the Pacific Ocean, as well as the bright ring of sunlight around the moon during an annular solar eclipse with only a central occultation. And thirdly, it describes the feeling of a woman when the child’s head passes through her pelvis during childbirth.

Her most recent work, Milky Ways, has a shamanic feel to it. It is dedicated to the oboist Nicholas Daniel, who plays the cor anglais. For the ancient Finns, the Milky Way marked the flight of the sacred swan across the sky to the ‘home of the bird’ beyond. The title can also be understood literally as the nursing of a baby, both a nourishing life force and a moment of great tenderness. The hypnotic sound of the English horn carries us from Mother Earth to the heavenly Milky Way.

In its eruptive moments, Outi Tarkiainen’s music can certainly be seen as a continuation of the works of well-known contemporary Nordic composers. In the finer moments, a new voice becomes audible, whose oscillating soundscapes evoke thoughts of the Northern Lights changing in the sky or Scandinavian landscapes. This makes it easy to understand the music’s connection to nature. Modern and cool in tone, but always approachable and full of tonal ideas, Kartiainen’s music offers a broadening of horizons in a vocal way, also an expression of closeness to nature.

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under its conductor Nicholas Collon has all the qualities and experience to pour the world of thoughts and emotions into gripping interpretations that convey the colors and moods in flawless playing. Collon gives his orchestra a sense of direction that allows it to pick up on all the subtleties of the pieces and shape them effectively, but also with sensitive attention.

Soloist Nicholas Daniel plays this work, which was also created in memory of his mother, with a technical maturity and sensitive musical shaping that makes the personal background recognizable, even if one did not know about it. At the same time, Milky Ways, with its three movements, is an enriching concerto for the solo instrument, which is rarely used in such prominence.

Read this review online at pizzicato.lu