Sallinen: Chaconne per organo; Hämeenniemi: Passacaglia; Kaipainen: Reunion Confirmed, Op. 71; Kortekangas: Ciaccona; Buxtehude: Preludes in E major and F sharp minor, BuxVW 141 and 146; Bach: Prelude and Fuge in A major, BWV 536; Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543
Kari Vuola (organ)
Alba ABCD 343
This is one of the most satisfying organ CDs to come my way in a while: leaved through preludes and fugues by Buxtehude and Bach (given performances with plenty of energy and impetus) are four passacaglias (or chaconnes – nearly the same thing) by four of Finland’s leading composers, none of whom is known for organ music. All four pieces are all around the six-minute mark, and are dark, even minatory in character.
Although passacaglias are variation-sets by definition and thus might invite floridity, there’s not a note too many in any of these works: all are pared down to the essential, leaving the music to roll forward as implacably as a force of nature. The ‘contrasts’ of the title are obviously between the modern works and the Baroque pieces, but it’s more than a question of style: the sombre nature of the passacaglias is set against the brightness of Bach’s and Buxtehude’s passagework, but in the closing A minor Prelude and Fugue Bach reminds us that he has plenty of sharp-edged vigour up his own venerable sleeve.