Sunfall sounds more like a James Bond film than an orchestral work, but it proved an apt title for Joel Jarventausta’s concert opener, the first of three new pieces showcased in this LSO Futures concert, and one that offered more than I had bargained for. The young Finn, in his mid-twenties, is clearly a composer who knows how to turn colour into sound.
Blazing sunlight and ominous clouds fill his bold canvas, inspired by dramatic portrayals of sunsets in prose and paint as well as his synaesthetic response to the colour orange. Sure, Sunfall was double the advertised length, but it only just overstayed its welcome. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a kaleidoscope of orchestral detail, and all those beautifully played solos? The conductor François-Xavier Roth and the London Symphony Orchestra revelled in.Rebecca Franks – The Times (2022)
He has worked for long periods in England and is currently on the threshold of an exciting career with commissions from several top international ensembles. Listening to the seven-movement Songs of Empty Landscapes (2020) for saxophone and piano quartet, it’s not hard to see why.Mats Liljeroos – Hufvudstadsbladet (2022)
That the source of inspiration is Bruce Percy’s minimalist stripped-down nature photographs, not infrequently with wintry and icy subjects, is also not surprising. In fact, it is no more surprising than the spontaneous association that arises on first contact with Järventausta’s tonally delicate synthesis of modernist expressive means and a neo-narrow aesthetic is Hans Abrahamsen’s cult piece Schnee. (translated from Swedish)
In similar vein, Joel Järventausta’s Songs of Empty Landscapes (2020) transforms visual ideas into various aural guises, with vivid imagination. Scored for saxophone, violin, viola, cello and piano, and cast in seven short movements, the fifteen-minute piece evokes exquisite sounding pictures, to a riveting effect.
Each of the movements is based on a single musical idea, studied and developed with joyous invention and detailed finesse. Clad in luminous harmonies and textures, astonishingly brought to life by the members of the Uusinta Ensemble, Songs of Empty Landscapes is an adventure into sounding richness, rooted in an admirable economy of the source material.
While some of the movements are slowly transforming, almost static, others demonstrate tangible, kinetic energy. Out of the ensemble’s fabric, solo lines emerge, providing the songs refferred in the piece’s title. Based on the wonderful world premiere, one would assume that these songs will be heard many, many times in the future.Jari Kallio – Adventures in Music (2020)
His Sunfall, inspired by a vivid 19th-century painting of a sunset, and by Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, seemed an exceptionally assured piece of orchestral writing. It’s a fiercely concentrated, 10-minute tone poem, in which violent outbursts of brass alternate with more consoling instrumental lines, and uneasy passages of stasis.Andrew Clements – The Guardian (2022)
Truly gripping was Sunfall by Joel Järventausta, born in 1995. The young Finn’s narration is extremely sonorous and he uses the possibilities of the orchestra for unexpected effects – right up to the end, when the clarinettists speak and the violin desks pluck high, stifled pizzicato notes. (translated from German)Verena Fischer-Zernin – Hamburger Abendblatt (2022)
Joel Järventausta’s Sunfall, apparently rooted in the composer’s synaesthetic response to the colour orange, made for an impressive opening piece, subdued first chords swiftly, rudely interrupted by a cataclysmic orchestral clap. That and other such contrasts in material were worked out in an atmosphere of unease and natural-world majesty. A keen ear for matching timbre and harmony, and for lone, fragile melodic against that atmospheric backdrop imparted a sense of the ultimate amorality of the sun and its light: it can give life, but it can also take it away. Increasing animation, even frenzy, returned us to a transformed wilderness. Chatter at its close—musical, yet speech—enhanced the enigma, but also the unapproachability of that giant fireball now departed.Mark Berry – The Boulezian (2022)
I do not think it would do Sunfall any disservice to call it a contemporary tone-poem.
Naava is a rewarding piece of contemporary music. The piece immediately draws you in with its interesting harmonic tensions, its structural contrasts and rhythmic changes creating drama and space. Well written for orchestra, the melodic textures are captivating. The only problem is that the duration is too short, but fortunately there is more to come. (translated from Finnish)Jari Hoffrén – Keskisuomalainen (2022)
Convincing contemporary music! …Making a name for himself in the world, Joel Järventausta is an interesting composer, whose modernistic approach is disciplined and technically impressive, but also exudes a softer, non-theoretical or non-formulaeic spirit. The author found Ripped Tapestry to be the highlight of the evening, and what more Ruut Kiiski made it especially lively and multi-dimensional. (translated from Finnish)Jari Hoffrén – Jälkikaikuja korvakäytäviltä (2021)