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The Critic's Chair series ended in March 2015.

The Critic's Chair for 29 June 2014

Robbie Ellis introduces four recent releases. There are new commissions for solo clarinet played by Matthias Schorn, and works for organ by Finnish composer Kalevi Aho. There's also a sumptuous new ECM production called Babylon-Suite with music for piano, toy piano, voice and drums, and two new guitar concertos with soloist Timo Korhonen.


Born to be SchornBorn to be Schorn: contemporary music for solo clarinet
Matthias Schorn (clarinet)
(Avi Music AVI 855 3297)

This is a satisfying album – no mean feat when every piece is for solo clarinet. Matthias Schorn has a wide and varied circle of composers he’s called on to fashion pieces for him, and this means there are plenty of approaches to music. I like the sound, I like the playing, I like the humour, I like the times away from the humour, and I like the balance. It’s worth checking out!


Aho Organ Ludus SolemnisAHO: Ludus solemnis: music for and with Organ
Jan Lehtola (organ), with Petri Komulainen (horn), Jussi Vuorinen (trombone), Kaija Saarikettu (violin), Anna-Kaisa Pippuri (oboe)
(BIS SACD 1966)
This album features Jan Lehtola playing three different organs in Finland and Sweden. It’s part of the BIS Label’s rather comprehensive output of Kalevi Aho’s music, so this disc has ended up being one of those thematically mixed bags that you get in a complete catalogue. But if you enjoy the composer, if you enjoy the organist, if you enjoy the organs, or if you simply enjoy first-rate sound, there’s plenty to recommend it.

Babylon SuiteBabylon-Suite
Vera Kappeler (piano, harmonium, toy piano, voice), Peter Conradin Zumthor (drums, toy piano, voice)
(ECM 2363)

This is one of those beautifully sumptuous ECM productions. Others might disagree with me, but I feel that Babylon-Suite jazz at heart – although jazz of a very mittel-European ECM variety. It’s spacious, mystical, with reverb lovingly sculpted by engineer Stefano Amerio and producer Manfred Eicher. In short, it’s a rather compelling musical progression, if you’re in the right frame of mind.

Guitar Concertos Timo KorhonenHAKOLA: Guitar Concerto; HOSOKAWA: Voyage IX, Awakening

Timo Korhonen (guitar), Oulu SO/Santtu-Matias Rouvali
(Ondine ODE 1219)

The guitar soloist here is Timo Korhonen. He’s part of the astonishing generation of Finnish musicians that includes Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Kari Kriikku, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and Sakari Oramo to name a few. He features the energetic concerto of Kimmo Hakola – also from Finland – and a soothing concerto by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa.