Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski (b. 1970) is one of Finland’s most distinguished composers of the last two decades. This second album of her music on Ondine includes Wennäkoski’s international breakthrough work, Flounce (2017) from the BBC Last Night of the Proms recorded by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and its new chief conductor Nicholas Collon. Wennäkoski’s Harp Concerto Sigla was written for Sivan Magen, the solo harpist of the Finnish RSO.
The most consistent feature in Wennäkoski’s music is its rich palette of tonal colour, not restricted to musical pitches but also incorporating noise as required. Her expression ranges from sensitive lyricism to forceful outbursts. Her output is wideranging, including orchestral music, vocal works, chamber music and solo pieces.
Flounce (2017) is a brisk scherzo, rhythmically quirky and dazzling with multi-layered colour. Instrument groupings and techniques are in constant flux, but the piece also accommodates a calmer lyrical middle section. The work was excellently received by audience and critics alike after its performance at the Proms, providing Wennäkoski’s already rising international career with a strong boost. The work has since been performed around the world and has prompted further commissions from her. Premiered in 2022, the title of Wennäkoski’s Harp Concerto Sigla has different meanings in different languages. In Italian, it means a jingle; in Icelandic, it means sailing; and in Tagalog, it means vivaciousness or enthusiasm. Wennäkoski has not specifically referenced these in the movements of the concerto as such, but she does allow that the various meanings of the word may be identified with the music according to the listener’s perception. Orchestral triptych Sedecim (2016) refers to the year 1916. The work was commissioned by the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra for its centenary in 2016, and the composer felt drawn to sketching three views or moods from the time when the orchestra was established. The diverse yet mutually complementary movements form an impressive and sonorously multi-dimensional triptych that brilliantly showcases Wennäkoski’s command of the orchestra.
The New York Times described Sivan Magen as “a harpist of astonishing range” whose “brilliant sound and remarkable technical acumen shatter any stereotype of his instrument”. Magen has been Principal Harpist in the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra since autumn 2017. Magen studied the harp in his native Jerusalem, at the Paris Conservatory and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. In 2006, he was the first and so far only Israeli to win the International Harp Contest in Israel. He was the recipient of the Pro Musicis International Award in 2009 and of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award in 2012. He teaches masterclasses across the world and in spring 2017 was an invited professor at the Paris Conservatory. His solo engagements have taken Magen across the United States, South America and Europe, and to Israel. An avid chamber musician, he has appeared at the Marlboro, Aspen, Rosendal, Kuhmo, Delft and Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festivals. He is a founding member of the Tre Voci trio with flautist Marina Piccinini and violist Kim Kashkashian.
The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) is the orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle), and its mission is to produce and promote Finnish musical culture. The Radio Orchestra of ten players founded in 1927 grew to symphony orchestra proportions in the 1960s. Its Chief Conductors have been Toivo Haapanen, Nils-Eric Fougstedt, Paavo Berglund, Okko Kamu, Leif Segerstam, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo, Hannu Lintu, and as of autumn 2021 Nicholas Collon.
British conductor Nicholas Collon is recognized for his elegant conducting style, searching musical intellect and inspirational music-making. He began as Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony in August 2021 – the first non-Finnish conductor ever to hold this post. As part of the orchestra’s continuing commitment to the Ondine label, Nicholas Collon will record a number of albums in his first season. Collon continues as Principal Guest of the Guerzenich Orchester, and will also return to the Residentie Orkest, where he was Chief Conductor 2016–2021. The Aurora Orchestra, of which Collon is Founder and Principal Conductor, remains at the heart of his activities.