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Kaipainen’s Compelling Concentration

by Martin Anderson

"One can almost listen to Kaipainen's three solo accordion works as a sonata, perhaps a super-sonata in view of the sheer intensity of the music."

The four works that Jouni Kaipainen wrote for accordion stretch across his career – one that was cut short by cancer in 2015, on the day before his 59th birthday. In the late 1980s Kaipainen’s style underwent a fairly dramatic evolution after he read Charles Rosen’s book The Classical Style; the immediate result was the clarinet concerto Carpe Diem!, and the longer-term one was a role for tonality in what had previously been a complex modernist language. Although the three solo works on this album bridge that Damascene conversion – Gena dates from 1987, Vento from 1998 and Placido from 2003, 2005 and 2009 – one can almost listen to them as a sonata, perhaps a super-sonata in view of the sheer intensity of the music. Then again, each solo work could also be regarded as a kind of symphonic poem for accordion, with a narrative compressed into the same kind of density as the style. But the density is not a hangover from Kaipainen’s modernist past: it’s a reflection of the extraordinary concentration of the music, of the astounding fecundity of the imagination at work here. Two of the three solo works were written at the behest of Mika Väyrynen, who gave Kaipainen carte blanche to write as virtuosically as he wished, and Väyrynen plays them here with dazzling bravura. You do have to pay attention to follow the argument, but it’s no effort: the sheer richness of the invention seizes your ears and carries you with it.

Formally, the seventeen-minute Elemental Chanting for cello and accordion occupies an unusual structure: it integrates suite and variation form. Kaipainen’s The Canticle of Brother Sun, Op. 88 (2009), used texts from St Francis of Assisi and Chief Seattle of the Suquamish and Duwamish Indians of North America. Elemental Chanting was composed alongside the cantata and shares material with it, and the four elements – wind, water, fire and earth – that feature in St Francis’ hymn Frate Sole generate sections that are interleaved with variation-interludes. If the three solo works form a kind of super-sonata, Elemental Chanting is a kind of hyper-recitative, its dramatic intensity also finding room for soaring melody and primitive rhythm.

At just under 47 minutes, this album might be considered a little on the short side, but if that’s all Kaipainen wrote for accordion, that’s all he wrote, and I doubt that anyone listening to this highly charged, instantly compelling music will consider it poor value – rather the reverse.

KAIPAINEN: Accordion works
Gena; Vento; Placido; Elemental Chanting
Mika Väyrynen (accordion), with Jouni Susiluoto (cello)

Finnish Accordion Institute FAICD2017