JAN JÄRVLEPP (b.1953): Concerto 2000 for Flute and Orchestra (Pascale Margely [flute], Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra; Stanislav Vavřínek), Pierrot Solitaire, Brass Dance (Zagreb Festival Orchestra; Ivan Josip Skender), Street Music, In Memoriam, Camerata Music (Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra; Petr Vronský).
Catalogue Number: 07W061
Label: Navona Records
Description: This irresistible recording simply demands to be enjoyed. Järvlepp was born in Canada of Finnish and Estonian parents. After an early flirtation with pop music he became thoroughly schooled in the techniques of the avant-garde, and then turned his back on them completely in favor of a direct, tonal, and hugely appealing neo-romantic style, gleefully acknowledging the influence and instant appeal of pop music, while composing in a sophisticated and technically impeccable idiom. The flute concerto is laid out in traditional three-movement form on a substantial scale. The first movement is lively, with claves and handclaps propelling the music with a toe-tapping flamenco rhythm and catchy Spanish-influenced melodies. The slow movement is mysterious and nocturnal, with a gentle but slightly sinister atmosphere. After a restrained, ominous climax, the flute spins Arabic-inflected incantations over a drone, punctuated by occasional claves clicks. The nocturnal material returns, more menacing than before, but the movement ends with the flute's chant and the drone fading into the darkness. The finale's title tells you what to expect: "Fire, Ice and Vodka". Described by the composer as like a "rowdy wedding reception", this rollicking celebration recalls the concert favorites from Smetana's Bartered Bride, but is actually based on Finnish folk music. The unnecessarily point-proving title and the composer’s provocative statement "Even fun is allowed!" should not distract from the fact that Pierrot Solaire, a glorious piece of musical good humor, can more than stand on its own two feet without being viewed as an exercise in cocking a snook at Schoenberg’s beautifully disturbing piece. Basically Järvlepp pulls out every cliché in the book of how to have high energy fun with music, and presents them in a richly orchestrated wall of sound, replete with the ubiquitous fifth dyad with doublings (the "power chord") of rock music, constant changes in time signature and displaced beats, and harmonies moving in parallel lockstep. The sudden appearance of a klezmer-ish polka based on a Finnish folk tune just adds to the work's zany, infectious sense of well-being. By contrast, In Memoriam is an entirely 'serious' piece, a deeply felt elegy for the composer’s brother, conceived during the final days of his illness. The work is a heartbroken Romantic lament, with darker, long-breathed passages of melancholy that recall Shostakovich. The genial Camerata Music started life as as an octet for a diverse group of soloists, and in orchestral guise it remains a good-natured contrapuntal discussion between colleagues, with a few surprises thrown in. Brass Dance and Street Music are jaunty, percussion-driven scherzi, exhilarating and full-blooded, the former ending with what sounds like a priceless tongue in cheek homage to Khachaturianian excess, the latter evoking the urban energy of "a couple of guys drumming on metal cans", here apparently having acquired the backing of a wind orchestra in big-band mode.