CD Reviews/ Kritiken
Interpretation: 6 (max 6) Klang: 5 (max 6) Repertoirewert: 5 (max 6)
-Piano News 3/2004
-Finnish Music Quarterly 1/04
"Jouni Somero knows the music, knows his way around the keyboard, and, most importantly knows how to support a singer." -allmusicguide.com 21.3.2007
-"Jouni Somero accompanies excellently, as he does throuhgout the recital" -MusicWeb-International June 2007
"Jouni Somero is the highly competent pianist" -Opera News July 2008
Sergei Bortkiewicz: Piano Works vol.5 All three works in Somero's recital are superbly lyrical, with individual pieces characterised, almost without exception, by unforgettable melody, delectable harmony and irrepressible rhythms sensuously swathed in a mellifluous timelessness, with the well-judged contrastive flourish or outburst of scintillating virtuosity and dramatic intensity. Grieg, Schumann, Liszt, Alkan and early Skriabin are all sometimes brought to mind, but on this disc it is Chopin's spirit that dwells again in Bortkiewicz - whose originality is, nevertheless, unimpeachable.On the whole, though, this makes five out of five quality discs, all of which have much pleasure and interest to offer pianophiles in particular and music-lovers in general. This latest gem-studded volume itself verges on the indispensable. Musicweb International 12/2011
Tchaikovsky's piano music is not as well known as it should be, and Finnish pianist Jouni Somero makes a strong case for it in this well filled disc, first of a series. The longest work here is the Piano Sonata from 1865, a student experiment full of attractive ideas, though little of pianistic interest. On the other hand, the program includes a treacherous etude,cleanly and forcefully played. Most of this is salon pieces: marches, mazurkas, waltzes,
scherzos, and a gorgeously melancholy 'Chanson Triste'. These are charming, well made,and unmistakably Tchaikovskian.
This is the most attractive one I have heard so far. American Record Guide July-August 2012
Regis 1354—64 minutes
Sonata in G; Children's Album; Aveau Passionne;
Jouni Somero, p
FC 9728—77 minutes
The Pletnev is a reissue from Melodiya (from
1986 and 1988). This may be its first appearance
in this country. Had I heard it back then, I
would have praised it for its elegance, style,
and spirit. Listening to it now gives me great
pleasure and joy at having discovered the
many beauties of performances totally in sympathy
with the music. Were I required to recommend
a single disc of the composer's piano
music, this would be the one. While all of the
selections belong to the realm of salon music,
they are melodic and charming. The slower
pieces also have a wistful sadness and bleed a
bit from the heart of old Russia.
The remaining three opus numbers are
additional gems to remind us what we are
missing since Pletnev has not recorded the
composer's complete piano works. Although
we have a nicely performed complete set with
Victoria Postnikova and the start of a set with
Oxana Yablonskaya, neither is quite in the
same league as Pletnev. Even if you have the
Postnikova, you may want to consider this as a
supplement. The uncredited notes are good,
and the recording is excellent.
With Somero we have the start of yet
another set of the complete piano music.
Although this is marked as Volume 2, I have
not seen Volume 1; and if you look carefully
enough, the present volume is also marked
Volume 3, apparently of a series called "Russian
Project". Forget this, and forget the strange
spellings on this Finnish label's website.
Somero is one heck of a pianist and I am
pleased to make his acquaintance twice this
month (see Blumenfeld review).
The Grand Sonata in G is a monumental
work lasting over half an hour. It has many
recordings—even one by Pletnev on Melodiya
with pretty nearly this same coupling. A check
of the Regis website shows that it is available
once again. It could be worth some serious
consideration. Somero meanwhile, aided by
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some fabulous sound, offers a powerfully penetrating
performance, as gutsy as one could
wish in this super-charged music. Some might
quibble with his demonic, driven approach,
though the music is designed to take no captors
and to live constantly on the brink.
Postnikova, on the other hand, takes several
minutes longer and makes a heavier, more
weighty experience of the music. Her lyrical
contrasts are more deeply felt, but we have less
of an exciting ride, particularly in the Finale.
She is no lightweight in the technical department,
though anyone playing this music must
be able to toss off difficulties with ease.
Sviatoslav Richter polishes off the Sonata
in slightly over 30 minutes, yet there is never
any feeling of undue haste. I am inclined to
give him the nod for overall excellence; very
few pianists could duplicate his achievement.
With everything perfectly in place, and his
expressiveness reaching the heart and soul of
this music, all one can do is sit back and marvel.
Yablonskaya takes an altogether different
view of this music. Her performance is all delicacy
and avoidance of fire and brimstone. If I
find it at odds with the nature of the music, she
certainly tries to make a valid case for it. Don't
expect it to set you afire.
The pleasant little pieces that make up the
Children's Album find strong advocacy in the
hands of both Somero and Postnikova.
Tchaikovsky's answer to Kinderszenen was
even dedicated to Schumann. The remaining
three pieces in Somero's selection are without
opus numbers and date from 1889. They are
most pleasant to listen to. Somero's notes are
extremely brief, but to the point.
Gade & Grieg Piano Works
Finnish pianist Somero is a big man, has a big
technique, a big repertory, and performs mostly
big works on the fringe of the repertory. This
recording gives us the opportunity of contrasting
two piano sonatas—one by the Norwegian
Grieg, and the other by his teacher, Niels Gade
Both are large and challenging works. The
Gade was written in 1840 when Chopin, Liszt,
and Schumann were composing their greatest
solo piano works—and their influence is
strongly felt. Grieg's Sonata was written in
1865 near the end of his studies with Gade.
Both composers were in their early 20s when
they wrote the sonatas, and Grieg dedicated
his to his mentor. A further bit of intertwining
occurs with the Lyric Piece 'Gade' which Grieg
wrote the year of his teacher's death. The other
Lyric Piece is the famous 'Notturno', which
Somero executes with loving care.
The Grieg Sonata gives us a good idea how
this popular miniaturist handled larger forms.
The Andante molto has some of the lyricism to
be found in the Piano Concerto, and all his
work has Norwegian folk idioms. Somero takes
full honors over all recordings I have heard of
both sonatas, and they are pretty good. With
his splashy showmanship and probing lyricism
there is little to take exception to.
Both sonatas are rhetorical, virtuosic
works. They are in the same key and harmonically
share a similar dimension. While Grieg
has added an extra 'Alla Menuetto' movement
before the Finale, Gade's three-movement
Sonata is the longer work by five minutes. Both
hold the attention well and have arresting
pages for both pianist and listener.
If you already have recordings of these
sonatas rest content; they require a high level
of pianistic skills fully met by the competition.
If you do not, consider Somero—in splendid
sound and with his own probing notes. You
will not be disappointed.
American Record Guide May-Juni 2014.
Dazzling and Muscular Performances of Godard's Best Piano MusicBy Hexameron on February 1, 2016 (Amazon)
Benjamin Godard (1849-1895) was much like Saint-Saens: a cosmopolitan Frenchman not at all seduced by Wagner and instead influenced by Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Liszt. He was manifestly inspired by these composers when writing for the piano. Many of his pieces meet the exigencies of the amateur salon market, while others require the virtuosity of a concert pianist. The Grand Piano label is surveying Godard's piano music with pianist Eliane Reyes, but she is outclassed by Jouni Somero, who has the muscle and spirited élan to bring out the best in these works.
The "Valse Chromatique' is a tour-de-force, one of Godard's most garishly acrobatic examples of bravura pianism. It is bustling with ostentatious flourishes, glissandi, splashy octaves, and Alkan-like chromatic scalar figures going up and down. Somero plays the hell out of it, achieving more bombast than the piece probably requires, and the ensuring fireworks are riveting. By contrast the "Promenade en mer" is a gentle salon piece evoking a boat scene, which has a major tempestuous climax. Compared with Reyes, Somero is the better showman and performer. He exhibits tremendous brio and plays with colossal strength and Romantic abandon in the crescendos, whereas Reyes is restrained and keeps her dynamics low. She approaches this piece as if it's a delicate French nocturne, while Somero tackles it with Lisztian flair.
A similar disparity between performers is on display in the Sonata Fantastique, perhaps Godard's most significant piano work. Each movement is of a programmatic nature. "The Spirits of the Forest" features a rapid patter of tremolos and a repeated bass note figure depicting forest creatures. Godard employs the flamboyant attitude and pianistic devices of Liszt, and Somero's heavier hand enlivens the work. "Goblins" is all bouncy and comical with a light elfin texture. "The Fairy of Love" is a Schumannesque song without words. In Somero's hands, its passionate climax becomes a monumental grandiose outpouring; absolutely breath-taking and heartfelt. Reyes is cold and anemic by comparison. "The Spirits of the Sea" is akin to Chopin's fastest and most turbulent of pieces with its breakneck speed and whirlwinds of arpeggios, all of which Somero plays confidently faster than Reyes.
Godard's Piano Sonata No. 2 is cut from the same cloth as the first. It begins with an "Allegro" of Russian character, utilizing a staccato rendering of the "Dies Irae" motif in its first theme. Virtuosic flourishes and passagework are abundant. Once again, Somero demonstrates more fire and brio than Reyes. The "Adagio" feints the listener with a lyrical respite, but things are not as relaxing as a typical slow movement. Sudden rumblings of turbulence and a rousing dramatic central section keep things exciting. Somero gives it all he's got, imbuing every moment of passion with more intensity than Reyes. He produces massive sonorities in a stentorian fashion, which Reyes seems uninterested in exploiting.
Bottom line: If you're going to
sample Godard's piano music, this is the disc to get. Fans of
virtuosic Romantic pianism should enjoy the sonatas. For those
tempted by the ongoing survey by Grand Piano, my opinion is that
Eliane Reyes is not temperamentally suited to this repertoire. Somero
clearly enjoys performing this kind of music, injecting an
appreciable degree of feeling and dynamic power into the sonatas.