It is roundly astonishing that Merikanto’s Second Symphony should have gone unrecorded until now. Written in the last year of World War I, when Merikanto was 26, it opens in a mood of dark exultation, the energy tempered with an awareness of something more sinister at play; a lyrical second subject brings balm and calm, but the development renews the mighty turmoil, gradually achieving a more positive tone.
The following scherzo dances with heavy boots, the extended Largo is a seascape over rocking strings, and the Allegro con brio finale returns to the powerful, long-legged enthusiasms of the first movement.
But it is the orchestral song Ekho (1922) which takes the biscuit here: it’s a masterpiece, pure and simple, sounding something like Sibelius’ Luonnotar transported into some phantasmagorical corner of the imagination. Merikanto’s control of colour is masterly, and the protomodernist angularity does not preclude genuine feeling – underlined by Anu Komsi’s thrilling account of the solo line. Knockout playing from the Turku Philharmonic under Petri Sakari, too, in vivid recorded sound.