Kalevi Aho (b. 1949): Nineteen Preludes (1965–68); Three Small Piano Pieces (1971); Two Easy Piano Pieces for Children (1983); Sonatina for Piano (1993); Solo II (1985); Sonata for Piano (1980) Sonja Fräki, piano Known particularly for his orchestral output – 16 symphonies and 21 concertos to date! – the Finnish composer Kalevi Aho was recently described in Gramophone as having ‘a strong claim to the title of greatest living symphonist’. But as followers of the ongoing releases of his music on BIS will know, Aho has also composed a large number of works for smaller forces – quartets and quintets, duos and solo pieces. On the present disc, the Finnish pianist Sonja Fräki presents his output for solo piano, comfortably fitting on one disc, but nevertheless spanning some 30 years of a long career.
The disc in fact opens with Aho’s earliest published work, the Nineteen Preludes from 1965-68, written before the composer had begun any formal studies of either composition or the piano. There is even a first version of Prelude No. 8 dating from 1963, when Kalevi Aho was in his early teens and was just beginning to teach himself the piano, writing music intended mainly as practice pieces for his own use. Since then Aho has composed for other budding pianists – the Two Easy Piano Pieces for Children and the Sonatina – but as in much of his other music, the works for piano display his characteristic fascination with the virtuosic and technically brilliant side of music-making. On the present disc, this quality comes to the fore in the Sonata, with its sparkling first movement and percussive, toccata-like second movement followed by a searching Tranquillo molto, characterized by a trill which continues almost without interruption throughout the movement. Commissioned as a
set piece for a piano competition, Solo II is likewise a challenge for any pianist, and forms part of a series of big (roughly ten-minute) solo works for various instruments, of which several have been recorded by BIS.