10 January 2016

Raimo Kangro: Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra No. 2

Firstly, and rather belatedly, Happy New Year. As the blog is still very young, it would have seemed pretentious to do a rounding off 2015 blog post; especially when I hadn't even been writing this blog for the whole year. This past week has been rather nonstop with my involvement in the BFE/RMA Student Conference 2016, in Bangor north Wales. It was fun to be involved for two reasons, firstly it was great to introduce everyone present to works by Kutavicius, Juzeliunas, and Montvila. Secondly, it was particularly fun to be extra sci-fi by being sat in my comfy flat in Vilnius, talking 1000 miles away in Bangor through the magical power of Skype.

Anyways, it is back into the Baltic and into the gems. As it is wonderfully chilling and snowy here in Vilnius, we need something upbeat and positive. I could think of no better person than the wonderfully witty and charming Raimo Kangro (1949-2001). Raimo is a figure I have had a wonderful soft spot for, ever since I heard the first note of his music. Raimo has a wonderful charm and wit that can only be equaled by composers like Haydn or Vivaldi. A student of Jaan Raats and Eino Tamberg, Raimo Kangro became closely linked to the 'neo-classical' scene in Estonia. The 'neo-classical' label does Raimo Kangro a disservice, mostly giving the impression that he was a conservative composer. His music is wonderfully energetic, bouncy, and just a joy to listen to.

What really makes Raimo Kangro stand out is his connection to sonatas, symphonies, and concerti. Works like his Clicking Symphony or Sonata for Two Pianos are times when he is at his strongest. So this brings me to his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. This wonderful four movement work. The first movement Declamazione starts with a rich piano chord, resonating freely as strings slowly enter; then a burst of life comes into the orchestra. After a brief interlude by the pianos, the orchestra enter again, circling on their motifs, the atmosphere is calm, rich, and resonant. The colour and power in the orchestra builds into really beautiful passages.

The second movement Variazione starts a fantastical musical interaction between the two pianos, focused on the more percussive effects like harmonics and plucking strings. As can be guessed from the title, the movement is a theme and variations of sorts, with opening gestures returning to the for. A highly rhythmic movement and is just a pure delight to listen to.

The third movement Impressione is a more austere movement, with crystal clear piano chorale. The entry of the cellos brings in a rich melody, and the circling harmonic material adds real beauty, but also a really mournful tone to the movement. The entry of the pedal adds so much angst to the piece that you are just gripped for the entirety of the movement. 

The final movement Allegro is a real tour de force, a speedy that just keeps flying. The pianists are let off the reins and are both able to really show off their own prowess. The circling harmonic configuration, gives the movement real stability allowing the soloists and orchestra the space to bring out the energy; not that it is much of a challenge, with the irregular time signatures and moto perpetuo-feel of the whole movement.

The work is wonderfully direct, so I do not want to take up more of your time, by giving strong rhetoric to prove you should enjoy this. Just listen to the piece here on spotify. The two other works: Concerto for Two and Gaudeo are both wonderful gems I aim to touch on in the future. Until next week.

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