Kokkonen: Symphonies Nos 1 and 2; Opus Sonorum


Writing a symphony just three years after the death of Sibelius must have been a daunting prospect for any Finnish composer. But it was the works Joonas Kokkonen (1921-1996) composed in the early 1960s that established his international reputation and made him one of the most significant composers Finland produced in the decades after the second world war. Stylistically, Kokkonen distanced himself from any accusations of a Sibelius influence; there is a neoclassical austerity about the textures in these symphonies, while the use of 12-note rows pushes the music close to the brink of atonality at times. Both are tautly argued works, compressing four movements into 20-minute spans that Sakari Oramo plots with precision. After completing the anguished Second Symphony in 1961, Kokkonen developed a more expressive, almost neoromantic style. The seeds of that can be heard in Opus Sonorum from 1964, which is symphonic in outline if not in its nine-minute scale, and uses the musical letters of Jean Sibelius's name as one of its motifs.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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