By John Murph | Published October 2019
Ever wonder what a year-in-the-life of a Finn’s like? Or, even better, what it might sound like? Iiro Rantala’s transportive song cycle, My Finnish Calendar, delivers 12 solo-piano performances depicting the nation’s conventional activities and emotional tenor that trace the course of each year.
Similar in character to Ben Wendel’s splendid The Seasons, each piece here is named after a month of the year, the album beginning with the stormy “January,” where Rantala’s stately lament evokes the spirit of regret after the preceding month’s indulgences. But the mood brightens quickly on “February,” as the keyboardist unravels a jaunty, percussive melody that shifts into modern stride pianism, while the lovely mid-tempo ballad “March” locates an emotional state somewhere between the ennui of winter and the anticipation of spring. Those three compositions alone illustrate Rantala’s virtuosic prowess as an improviser capable of enormous idiomatic and emotional range.
Granted, one can find similar concept works that date back even to Antonio Vivaldi’s iconic four-part violin concerti, The Four Seasons. But for a modern, personalized update with both emotional magnetism and musical intelligence, My Finnish Calendar is a welcome entry to the universal musical-almanac theme.
My Finnish Calendar: January; February; March; April; May; June; July; August; September; October; November; December. (53:21)
Personnel: Iiro Rantala, piano.