Sami Junnonen: The Chant Enchanted

review sammi x1 cong

We’ve been enjoying this album by flautist Sami Junnonen, though it’s hard to describe.

It’s an album of flute music by a Finn (he was born in 1977 in Tampere) but at various places sounds English (Vaughan Williams) and European (Bach/Mozart/chamber music) and at other times exotic — one featured composer is Michio Miyagi, an expert on the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument.

The album opens with a Miyagi piece, The Sea In Spring, written for shakuhachi and koto but transcribed for flute and kantele by Junnonen and Eva Alkula. Miyagi went blind after a sighted childhood, and this piece is doubly evocative as he remembers the sea and the seeing of his childhood.

The second piece is by Finn Janne Ikonen (b. 1975), Sprout For Flute And Kantele, the music flowing freely, like a plant from seed. It’s a mystical piece, which in some ways sounds more eastern than Miyagi’s opener.

Johann Sebastian Bach, Sonata In C Major and then Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Sonata In A minor follow, this section giving the music a more traditional European feel, and virtuosity overtaking atmosphere as the musical precedent in places. Carl Philipp’s pieces veer slightly towards the avant-garde, which leads nicely into the more modern sounds of works by Aki Yli-Salomäki (b. 1972), Jimmy López (b. 1978) and Uljas Pulkkis (b. 1975).

These take the album off into dreamer realms, though never challenging.
This is one of those albums that’s been made to play, not analysed. It creates an atmosphere that is off-kilter enough to divert the listener from normal life but is not so edgy that you can’t relax into it.

Junnonen, who holds a master of music with distinction from the Sibelius Academy, performs on 24-carat and 14-carat gold flutes, handcrafted by the Muramatsu Flute Co.

About jerobear

Weekly newspaper editor in Cheshire, England. I blog my editorials and the CDs I write about. I play drums, drink coffee, play music, meditate. I hate filling in forms.

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