CD review: Jaakko Kuusisto’s Glow

First published in the Guardian on 25 August, 2016

Jaakko Kuusisto: Glow
Meta4/Kuusisto etc. (BIS)

Finnish conductor/composer/violinist Jaakko Kuusisto writes nimble, muscular music that wears its influences proudly (Debussy, Stravinsky), sometimes roams into misty or overheated places but is mostly pretty spirited and playful. The titles are a bit of a give away on that last point: this survey of recent chamber music includes Play II and Play III, and the fact that Kuusisto is a violinist himself — like his brother Pekka — is everywhere in the quixotic, very physical-sounding string writing and the sparky dialogue between instruments. Play III collapses from hectic rhapsody into lament for solo violin with slow panting in the accompaniment; in Play III, the piano splutters and provokes while the strings hold out wan harmonics then fiercely retaliate. It all sounds like music written to be delivered with vigour and fluidity and these performances from (among others) the Meta4 quartet, pianist Paavali Jumppanen and Kuusisto himself run with that.