According to the booklet note to his BIS solo record Kromos, Ismo Eskelinen wanted to ”make a modern guitar disc that can be listened to from beginning to end.” A self-ironic joke or not, Eskelinen achieves his goal: Kromos is a rewarding listening experience. This is, naturally, due to Eskelinen’s splendid musicianship, but also much to the diversity of styles and ideas in the chosen six works, all but one by Finnish composers.
The guitar takes on many roles: it imitates the Iraqi lute ud in Kalevi Aho’s Solo XI (2013), explores the relation between flamenco guitar and the Chinese lute pipa in Tan Dun’s Seven Desires (2002), and multiplies and echoes itself in Jukka Tiensuu’s Daydreams (2015) for guitar and electronics.
Solo XI took me by surprise, in a good way: the uninspiring title notwithstanding, the music is marvellously colourful, with scordatura tuning providing a drone-like background for the microtonal ornaments.
The tradition of classical guitar is present as well, especially in the title work, Kromos (2011) by Sebastian Fagerlund, which grows from a calm beginning to breathtakingly virtuosic scales, repetitions, and chords. Olli Mustonen’s Guitar Sonata No. 2 (2017) is a narrative whole that evokes images of a fairy tale. Timo Alakotila’s Psalm (2015), in an arrangement by Eskelinen, serves as a tranquil epilogue.
Kromos – 21st-Century Guitar Music
Ismo Eskelinen, guitar