Finnish folk tunes seem at first glance to be culturally far removed from the Spanish core of the classical guitar repertoire, but all it takes is one musician with a vision for a link to be forged. Guitarist Osmo Palmu embraces his role as such a mediator with gusto: his disc Northern Variations contains guitar classics by Albéniz, Granados and Tárrega and also original works by Palmu in the same style but drawing on Finnish traditional music.
Palmu is an experienced and accomplished artist who is in full command of the essential stylistic features of the classical guitar repertoire. His paraphrases, preludes, variations and concert etudes on Finnish themes comfortably slip into the same continuum with the great classics. But his original pieces are not just about dressing up old tunes in a new guise. The compelling Kareliana brings his artistic persona to the fore in a composition evoking the quiet sounds of the eastern Finnish kantele and drawing on his family’s experiences in being evacuated from their home region during the war and losing touch with their roots. Variations on a theme by P.J. Hannikainen, by contrast, takes an edgy tango nuevo approach to a tune that many Finns known as a song about a guardian angel, with incisive harmonies and precision-crafted sonorities.
Palmu’s pieces deserve to be widely recognised by the guitar world in their own right, but the greatest merit of this disc is in demonstrating how natural even the oddest of musical combinations can seem if driven by genuine, experience-based musicianship.
Comp. Albéniz, Granados, Palmu, Malats, Tárrega, trad.; arr. Osmo Palmu.
Osmo Palmu, guitar.
Palmu Records PR-1.
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi