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Lotta Wennäkoski: Flounce; Sigla; Sedecim

Sivan Magen (harp); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Collon (Ondine)

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Lotta Wennäkoski
Flounce; Sigla*; Sedecim
*Sivan Magen (harp); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Collon
Ondine ODE 1420-2   47:12 mins


Back-to-back centenaries helped prompt two of the pieces on this life-affirming release of recent orchestral music by Lotta Wennäkoski (b1970). 2017 marked the centenary of her native Finland’s independence – an anniversary noted by the BBC Proms, who commissioned the composer’s action-packed Flounce. Here, with an adroitness matched in each work by Nicholas Collon’s Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, it opens proceedings with far more than the bang its title suggests: as well as describing gestural dramatics, ‘flounce’ is a tailoring term for a decorative hem, and Wennäkoski artlessly weaves the dual implications through five short yet intricately detailed minutes.

Now powerfully extrovert, now light and airy – and everywhere vibrant with colour – the contrasts offer a compressed template for the work’s beguiling lengthier siblings. Sedecim (‘Sixteen’), was composed in 2016 to celebrate 100 years of the Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestra. Its three movements stem from very different aspects of 1916, with homages to Edith Södergran’s poetry and Erkki Melartin’s music framing a harrowingly eerie picture of poisoned WWI ‘red zones’. Together they form a substantial triptych, the orchestra explored with tremendous verve in a modernist idiom distinguished by its invigorating lightness of touch.

The 2022 harp concerto Sigla was written for its superb soloist, Sivan Magen. By turns buzzing, skittering, delicately pointillist and richly luminous, it plays on the title’s various meanings as jingle, enthusiasm – and sailing. Wennäkoski’s succinct description of the harp as the ‘motor that brings the colours of the orchestra to life’ barely hints at the brilliance of her soundworld.


Steph Power