Two unusual solo instruments are the focus of this all-Aho disc. Indeed, in the case of the contrabassoon (or double bassoon), Kalevi Aho’s work is one of the very few concertos that exist. It is also by far the most demanding and extensive. In fact, the solo part became playable only after recent developments of the instrument itself, extending its compass upwards. While composers have treated the tuba slightly more generously, there was certainly room for another concerto in the repertoire when Aho composed it in 2001. Both instruments are sometimes treated as the buffoons of the symphony orchestra, and are often called in by composers for comic effect. But Kalevi Aho underlines the great capacity of the two for cantabile singing, a quality that he has endeavoured to bring out in their respective concertos. A recent release of Aho works, BIS-CD-1336, was described in Gramophone as ‘a superb coupling of two strongly communicative contemporary works...which demonstrate Aho’s comprehensive mastery of rhythm, timbre and drama’.
These qualities are to the fore in the present works as well, with the tuba concerto featuring operatic, impassioned musical gestures, and the monumental contrabassoon concerto – ‘almost a symphony for contrabassoon and orchestra’, according to the composer – exploiting the instrument’s extremely wide register, contemplative qualities and surprising technical agility. The soloists are Øystein Baadsvik, whose previous tuba discs for BIS have been highly acclaimed, and Lewis Lipnick, for whom the contrabassoon concerto was composed. They are backed up by, respectively, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Mats Rondin and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton, vouchsafing that Aho’s masterful orchestral writing is realized to the full.