Piano Music of Erkki Melartin performed by Maria Lettberg


Finnish composer Erkki Melartin (1875-1937) was ten years the junior of Jean Sibelius, and although they were working at the same time and were very close friends, there is little evident influence by the more celebrated composer on Melartin’s music. This Delta Classics two CD set of his solo piano works performed by Maria Lettberg provides a cross-section of his entire output. The program is loosely arranged in chronological order and as such provides a fascinating portrait of the composer’s development, which underwent appreciative changes.

The CD opens with a series of early character pieces. They are quite romantic, lyrical and virtuosic, almost Chopinesque. This music and many of his earlier pieces are often programmatic, based upon themes found in Finnish novels or poetry. Through his middle period, the music is characteristically more impressionistic, and by the time we are listening to the later works, Melartin’s musical vocabulary has widened considerably. He shows the influence of the prevailing modernity in music. The mood has darkened, there are more unusual harmonies and an increased use of dissonance and chromaticism. The tonal center is more frequently ambiguous. Sometimes it is modal, or makes use of whole-tone scales. He can add an exotic flair, of the Orient or of Spain, and within all this, Melartin often blends his romantic origins into this new musical language.

The music is interesting throughout, and to listen to these two CDs through is to follow the course of Melartin’s art. It is a fascinating expedition, and the eloquent performances by Ms. Lettberg show that she knows the journey well.

Here is Maria Lettberg performing Melartin’s “Romance”. It’s very beautiful. Enjoy!