OK, here is a list of five music “outsiders” (not germane to my own bailiwick, so to speak) whom I consider to be favorites:
Adored his music when I was a teenager, hated it when I was a savvy grad student, rediscovered it in my thirties. At its best, his music, especially the symphonies and tone poems, seem to jump over time, in more ways than one. He bridged the gap between late romanticism—classical tradition and early-20th-century modernism, or maybe, he just was writing “post modern” music 50 years early. He shows that the idea of minimalism goes back in time. His deeply affecting music never fails to penetrate; it’s disarmingly authentic. It has crept into my own work, literally.
I treasure my old LPs of the maestro of lush strings—was it 101? Anyway, a lot. Not even the Philadelphia Orchestra could match that sound! And what fantastic use of reverb!
Everyone knows him for the “Bye, Bye Miss American Pie,” but check out his honey sweet voice on such classics as “And I Love You” (yes, the tune Perry Como in his dotage made famous), and “Cryin’ Over You” (yes, the Roy Orbison tune—McClean does it better) which always makes me cry.
Anything by these boys, but especially their recording of Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Kings Consort; take this with you to a desert isle.
This strangely neglected Finnish composer was a contemporary of Sibeius, although a bit younger. Unlike Sibelius, who was inspired by the runic verses of the Kalevala but never actually used any of the “tunes” to which they were sung in his own music, Krappuula not only collected and employed the runic melodies in his setting of the Kalevala, but actually serialized the pitches. Since the runes rarely used more than five or six notes, usually in a dorian inflection, he explored the microtonal variations in pitch that the native Karelian singers often exhibited, and came up with a 12 note scale within the compass of a pentachord. In his unprecedented setting of the entire Kalevalla text, which comprises 50 runes of an average of 150 lines each—thus totaling over 7,500 lines of verse—he used the call and answer approach to the recitation, where each line is sung by one singer and repeated by another; so, in his setting there are over 15,000 lines! The mammoth composition calls for two choirs of 100 voices each, one being male, the other female. The only instrumental accompaniment is the Finnish zither, the kantele, which is retuned to match the bizarre 12-note scale. The lone kantele is overwhelmed by the singing for most of the composition but apparently can be heard briefly in between Runos. I say apparently, because no one has ever heard the piece. Attempts to perform it at various music festivals in Finland have been thwarted by financial and other hurdles. The closest the work ever came to realization was in 1935 at the All-Nordic Festival of Massed Choirs held in the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi. After the first rehearsal, which went on for four or five hours and only covered the first two runos, Krappuula disappeared and didn’t show up for a week, when the festival was over. He apparently slipped across the border into Russia, where Vodka was much cheaper than in Finland, and went on a bender.
Krappuula is not held in especially high esteem in his native country, although there is a society dedicated to his lifelong work. Sibelius himself was reputed to have little regard for his colleague, and, according to his amanuensis, Santeras, when asked about Krappuula by a visiting American composer, dismissed him with a wave of his hand and an exhalation of cigar smoke followed by a guffaw.
[Ed. Note] Despite our most thorough research efforts, the NMBx staff could not uncover any additional information about this unique Finnish composer…