Einar Englund’s centenary fell on 17 June, but this is the only release marking the date that has come my way so far. His Violin Concerto of 1981 is one of the major violin concertos of the past century – and not just from Finland.
The sardonic humour and driving energy of the opening paragraph make it instantly recognisable as Englund, although he also knows to stand back and let his soloist soar. The chordal passage after the first-movement cadenza is perhaps the most beautiful thing he ever wrote. The clarity of the orchestral texture, based on mobile bass lines, points to a closeness to Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, reinforced when Englund’s slow movement evokes Shostakovich’s passacaglia, not least in the soloist’s dialogue with the lower strings. The music certainly has wit, but it also has considerable bite.
Uuno Klami’s Violin Concerto, four decades older than Englund’s, sits well with it here. It doesn’t have the individuality of its partner, but Klami’s lyrical solo line and luminous orchestral colours retain the interest throughout. Wonderfully buoyant performances from Schmid, Gustavsson and their Oulu colleagues.
Benjamin Schmid (violin), Oulu Symphony Orchestra, cond. Johannes Gustavsson