Aho ist international vor allem als Komponist für großes Orchester bekannt geworden, schreibt aber auch für verschiedenste kammermusikalische Besetzungen. Die drei hier vorgestellten Werke entstanden in einem Zeitraum von 12 Jahren, beginnend mit der Akkordeon-Sonate (1984) und endend mit dem Klarinettentrio (2006).Eine Besonderheit der Einspielung ist Osmo Vänskä mal nicht dirigierend am Pult, sondern an der Klarinette zu erleben – er begann seine Karriere einst als 1. Klarinettist des philharmonischen Orchesters Helsinki. Er spielt hier zusammen mit Mitgliedern des Minnesota Orchestra, dessen Chefdirigent er derzeit ist.
The focus of Kalevi Aho’s output lies on large-scale orchestral works, and his work-list includes fifteen symphonies to date, composed between 1969 and 2010. Although the Finnish composer is famously lavish as an orchestrator, and often invites rare guests such as the heckelphone into his orchestra, the scores of Aho’s three chamber symphonies are much more economic in scale. But although composed for some twenty strings in all, and of more modest durations than for instance the 50-minute Eighth Symphony for organ and orchestra, they bear eloquent proof of the composer’s aim of exploiting to the full the expressive capabilities of a string orchestra. Consequently these works are highly demanding for the players; not because virtuosity has been an end in itself, but for reasons of maximum expressivity. For Chamber Symphony No. 3, the composer decided to include a solo part for alto saxophone, written for John-Edward Kelly who also performs it here. In his liner notes, Aho describes the piece as ‘a hybrid of chamber symphony and saxophone concerto’ and relates how he was inspired by Arabic music, and more particularly by a certain ‘unique melodic heterophony’ resulting from different musicians playing the same melodic pattern, but each of them with slight differences. Performing these scores are the eminent strings of the Tapiola Sinfonietta, an ensemble which has earned high praise from reviewers around the world for its recordings, ranging from Arvo Pärt to Saint-Saëns and C. M. von Weber. The conductors Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Stefan Asbury are both close collaborators of the orchestra, and the presence of the composer during the recordings vouches for the authenticity of these performances.