in Reviews

Romantic tones with Impressionist leanings

by Mats Liljeroos

Selim Palmgren was congratulated after the premiere of his Piano Concerto No. 5 (1942) by a personage no less than Sibelius himself, and listening to Alba’s new release of Palmgren’s complete piano concertos it is easy to understand why.

Though under-appreciated among Palmgren’s concertos, the Fifth is fresh and invigorating, striking a fascinating balance between low-key National Romanticism and Neo-Classical tendencies.

By contrast, the atmospherically and structurally curious Piano Concerto no. 4, April (1927), combines late Romantic tones with Impressionist leanings in an exciting way, and its transparent sonorities and harmonies at times show flashes of a boldness that demonstrates that Palmgren was well in tune with contemporary international trends.

Janne Mertanen is utterly comfortable with this aesthetic. He plays with finesse, elegance and – when required – with temperament. The disc is wonderfully filled out by the orchestra in the moody Pastoral i tre scener [Pastoral in three scenes] and the colourful Exotisk march, and Jan Söderblom brings out the best from the admittedly limited resources of the Pori Sinfonietta.

Piano concerto nr. 4 "April"
Piano concerto nr. 5
Pastorale in three scenes
Exotic march
Janne Mertanen, piano
Pori Sinfonietta, cond. Jan Söderblom

Alba ABCD 400