On the record company’s website, Ilari Kaila’s (b. 1978) The Bells Bow Down is described with the phrase ”Finland to Hong Kong via New York; an intimate journey.” This refers to Kaila’s path from the Sibelius Academy to his current position as a residence composer at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, as well as to biographical dimensions in the chamber works on the recording.
The personal aspect is strong in the emotional The Bells Bow Down (for piano and string quartet, 2006), composed to the memory of a pianist friend. The early Wisteria (for string quartet; 2003) is expressively contrapuntal. In the more recent string quartet, Jouhet (2017), the viola skilfully imitates jouhikko, a traditional Finnish bowed harp. The different musical ideas in this work remain, however, detached from each other.
Works like Cameo (for flute, viola, and piano; 2005) or Hum and Drum (for cello and piano; 2017) are characterized by an economy of motivic material and layered, repetitive textures that change subtly – influences include Carnatic music and progressive rock. There is a certain calmness, but also a constant sense of moving towards a goal. Contemplative characteristics become highlighted in Taonta (2016), a series of five shimmering piano miniatures.
The performances are lively and delicate throughout, resulting in an elegant and enjoyable whole.
Ilari Kaila: The Bells Bow Down
Adrienne Kim (piano), Isabelle Lepanto Gleicher (flute), Aizuri Quartet
Innova Recordings, 1036