Armas Järnefelt: Song of the Scarlet Flower (2CD)

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Gavle Symphony Orchestra, Jaakko Kuusisto

This release features the world-première recording of the full orchestral score written by Armas Järnefelt (18691958) to Mauritz Stiller's silent film Song of the Crimson Flower (1919) performed by Gävle Symphony Orchestra under Jaakko Kuusisto. Armas Järnefelt - today largely known in music literature as Sibelius's brother-in-law - became one of the most remarkable Finnish orchestral composers during the 1890s. The composer wrote several symphonic poems and orchestral suites in his young age which were highly successful and widely performed by various orchestras in his home country. Järnefelt's score was lost for a long time, although he did conduct a recording of extracts from the score in 1931. In the 1980s the original score was rediscovered among the possessions of Järnefelt's relatives. Järnefelt's score was augmented and restored by Jani Kyllönen and Jaakko Kuusisto for the present recording.

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1. Chapter I: The first flush of spring
2. Chapter II: The mother’s glance
3. Chapter III: Learning life

4. Chapter IV: A young man’s daring-do
5. Chapter V: Kyllikki
6. Chapter VI: In the town
7. Chapter VII: The Pilgrimage

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The Classical Music Collector:

Armas Järnefelt was a very successful composer in his lifetime, but his star has rather waned, despite his being Sibelius’ brother-in-law. His teachers were Busoni and Massenet, and his musical language is artfully traditional—well-suited to silent film. He was asked to provide a score for the 1919 film, Song of The Scarlet Flower, a task he, by his own account, found unexpectedly challenging due to the variable film speeds of the time. Nonetheless, he produced a score of remarkable richness and depth, reflective of his engagement with Finnish nationalism, and full of leitmotifs, a technique he had encountered when championing Wagner.  The film went on to be a huge success, and is now regarded as a major work in the canon of Nordic film. For this reason alone, Järnefelt’s score would strongly merit revival, but his ‘symphonic poem’ is sufficiently fine to transcend its origins.

- Chris Dench