Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Happened to Aulis Sallinen?

One of the things I remember the most about the early days of CD technology was that it introduced me to a variety of fascinating composers who had not received much attention from the vinyl industry, at least in the United States.  Thanks to the enthusiasm with which labels like Finlandia and BIS embraced the new technology, many of those composers were Finnish.  As a result, I remember building up a modest collection of the works of Aulis Sallinen;  and my wife and I had the good fortune to see two different productions of his opera Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan (the King goes forth to France), first in Santa Fe and then at Covent Garden.

Looking at the collection I have accumulated, I realize that I have not heard much of Sallinen lately.  Finnish composers continue to be on my radar, most recently in the conjunction with the visit of Magnus Lindberg to San Francisco (which included an impromptu piano performance of the Finnish national anthem with his colleague, the cellist Anssi Karttunen, to celebrate Finland having just won the International Ice Hockey Federation World Hockey Championship).  However, it appears that the only time I have written about a performance of Sallinen’s music was in October of 2009, when Osmo Vänskä performed his first symphony as part of the program he offered as guest conductor of the San Francisco Symphony.

In the piece I wrote about that performance, I tried to be fair about the lack of attention being given to Sallinen:

Perhaps we should take this less as a sign of negligence on the Symphony's part and more a recognition of just how large the repertoire of twentieth-century actually is.

I continue to stand behind this assessment.  The world the Internet has made is one in which there is just too much competing for not only our own attention but for the attention of many of the more institutionalized “channels” through which we learn about new things.  Where music is concerned, San Francisco has a rich abundance of those channels.  However, no individual can keep up with all of those channels, nor can those channels collectively keep up with the prodigious rate at which the repertoire keeps growing.  The result is that I do what I can to keep up with things, but I shall never be able to get beyond playing the cards dealt to me on any given occasion.

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