Reviews

Tuija Hakkila, a pianist from Finland, offered a well-chosen and persuasively played program of 20th-century music in her New York debut recital Thursday evening at Merkin Concert Hall. Two of the works on the program were written for the pianist and were premieres. ''Twine,'' by Magnus Lindberg, one of Ms. Hakkila's countrymen, is an abstruse work in a densely packed, austerely dissonant idiom, but it was not without a sense of emotional drama, conveyed in the way cascades of notes and bursts of bright color were molded into coherent phrases. ''Finished,'' by Edmund J. Campion, a New York composer, uses a language similar to Mr. Lindberg's, but is a kind of scherzo. Its tumbling motifs are used to describe (according to the composer's program note) a painter rolling down a hill while trying to sketch a scene. The intention is comic, and Ms. Hakkila brought out the score's occasional touches of slapstick with clarity of purpose.

Between the new works, Ms. Hakkila played three of Busoni's witty and rarely played Sonatinas. In No. 1, her keen sense of phrasing and her thoughtful pedaling helped her maintain a sense of hazy mystery even as the work built to a steamy climax. In the more rational Neo-Classic structures and contrapuntal lines of No. 3, her playing was unflaggingly lucid. And she gave a bravura performance of No. 6, in which Busoni took themes from Bizet's ''Carmen'' and wove them into a broad fantasy.

Ms. Hakkila also gave an impassioned, probing account of Janacek's Sonata ''1.X.1905,'' and her performance of Ravel's ''Miroirs'' was exquisitely three-dimensional. It was a varied and demanding program, and Ms. Hakkila rose to its challenges admirably. - Allan Kozinn, The New York Times (January 28, 1989)
 
La Sequenza IV pour piano que Berio a composée en 1966 est d’une richesse de timbres et de résonances prodigieuse, enrichie par l’exploitation poussée à l’extrême de la troisième pédale, dite « tonale », qui met en résonance les seules notes ou accords joués au moment où cette dernière est enfoncée par l’interprète. Sous les doigts (et les pieds) de Tuija Hakkila, l’œuvre est apparue d’une simplicité extrême, laissant l’auditoire saisi par ce qui sortait du clavier de la pianiste finlandaise, qui offrait des sonorités en miroirs, des éclats de timbres magnifiquement colorés, une volubilité inouïe qui, transportés par une énergie colossale, laisse transparaître le cantando propre à Berio. - Bruno Serrou, ResMusica.com (July 28, 2009)
 
SIBELIUS: Piano Pieces
Impressions; Morceaux; Rondinos;
Sketches; The Tempest; To My Beloved Aino
Tuija Hakkila
Alba 297—76 minutes
This is one of the more exciting releases I have come upon recently. It is a treasure trove of (mostly) mature works by an underappreciated master, played with all the style and grace they deserve. The detailed program notes tell the story of a cash-strapped Sibelius, in the period following World War I, looking to make back money lost from severed contacts with foreign publishers and agents. This account paints a truthful picture of the materials at hand, in many ways adding to my respect for these well-crafted works. Upon reading Sibelius’s remark that “there are more of my thoughts and ideas in [the piano pieces] than in many of my biggest works”, I found it nearly impossible not to agree. Most of the pieces included here are miniatures that last less than three minutes. Many musical styles are represented. The opening chorale in C, evoking the carillon of ‘A Village Church’, is both sonically grand and harmonically daring, starting out diatonically and quickly complicating itself with more chromatic additions. The first of the Cinq Morceaux, Op. 85, is a light prelude that skitters glassily about; the second is an intensely warm song without words. Number 4 is a lively baritone quickstep with a folk-like beginning: it is similar in style to Prokofieff’s more tuneful piano works except it lacks any trace of dissonance. In the last of the Five Characteristic Impressions, Op. 103, we find a lugubrious ostinato, short and bittersweet. When we are lucky, a bouncy, landler-style piece springs forward. Sibelius, it seems, had a gift for melodic ideas in triple time: these little gems embody the perfect blend of folk inspiration and compositional craft. They are a particular joy to behold. The last track of note is ‘The Spruce’, the last of the Cinq Morceaux, Op. 75. If I were an enterprising record executive, my first mission would be to expose the general public to this transcendent performance. This is soulful, beautiful music that more people need to hear. Tuija Hakkila plays marvelously; her sound is bold, deep, and gilded by an exquisite sense of timing and phrasing. Her technique is strong, too, and she forcefully controls all of the challenging passagework—arpeggios and runs—that can blow into these works like an unexpected winter wind. She deserves widespread recognition for this tremendously effective offering.
AUERBACH
American Record Guide
(Jan-Feb 2012)
 
[T]he pianist Tuija Hakkila was utterly convincing in Ms. Saariaho's "Prelude," leaving the audience holding its collective breath. - Alan Lockwood, The New York Sun (August 18, 2008)
 
Tuija Hakkila impose un ton dès les premières mesures. Elle possède une franchise d’expression, une netteté de l’attaque, une vivacité qui font mouche. La pianiste finlandaise n’a pas peur du vide (première qualité du pianiste mozartien); elle joue en complicité avec la musique et non pas contre ou à coté d’elle.- Olivier Bellamy, Le Monde de la Musique (August 1997)
 
Mozart stürmisch und gescheit Wie Tuija Hakkila die Klaviersonaten meistert. Der Plattenkatalog ist mit Mozart gesegnet. Kein Bedarf an neuen Einspielungen der Klaviersonaten? Kommt darauf an, wer und wie...Die junge, hierzulange noch wenig bekannte Finnin Tuija Hakkila hat’s gewagt - und ist die Gewinnerin....Die Instrumente klingen silbern hell bis metallisch hart. Alles andere als fremd, historisch, betulich, sondern sehr lebendig hören sich die Originalklang-Versionen der insgesamt 18 Sonaten Mozarts unter Tuija Hakkilas Händen an. Ihr Spiel steckt voller Kraft und phantastischer Ideen: Mozarts klassizistische Formensprache wird in einer Gratwanderung von nüchterner Präzision und berauschender Impulsivität nachgezogen.... Tuija Hakkilas fulminantes Musizieren öffnet die Ohren für Mozarts wilden Charakter: Nicht nur gelingt es ihr, in den stürmischen frühen Sonaten glatte Spielkonventionen mit dreinfahrender Pranke zu konterkarieren, auch die späteren, reifen Werke geraten in den Sog eines ausdruckswütigen Elans. Fast ein Wunder. Die Eleganz der Linienführung bleibt dennoch gewahrt. - Wolfgang Schreiber, Süddeutsche Zeitung (17.10.1997)
 
Anssi Karttunen and Tuija Hakkila play as if they really are exploring ideas of startling novelty, daring each other on, and pushing their instruments to the limits of their capabilities... Every note bites into place in their ferocious outer movements, always tempered with the good humour of tiny subtleties and graces of phrasing. The range of detail and dynamic nuance in a single piano scale or repeated note is remarkable: so are the disorientating silences and offbeats of the first Menuetto. - HF, The Gramophone (November 1989)
 
... the cello-and-piano team of Anssi Karttunen and Tuija Hakkila, whose musicianship and choice of repertoire made their Finlandia collection of contemporary pieces the most vital of its kind I have ever heard... - Stephen Ellis, Fanfare (Nov / Dec. 1989)
 
She is certainly special . . . she plays with intrinsic musicality and real guts. - Classical Music, London (January 1981)