Reviews on concerts and CDs:

Orfeo Amoroso

“On this recording, the decacorde presents itself as a magic super instrument: the featuring composers take full pleasure in its sonorous legato, imposing arpeggios and the enormous variety of shades in the plucked sounds. Mäntylä’s sensual interpretational approach, seeking for relevance makes the recording a delicate experience.”

Auli Särkiö-Pitkänen / Rondo Classic

Decacorde – Mari Mäntylä

For her debut solo album, the Finnish guitarist Mari Mäntylä has chosen the works of just three composers to represent Renaissance, Baroque and contemporary music. The chief distinguishing feature of Mäntylä is that she specialises in performing on a Decacorde – a 10-string guitar, an instrument which allows for a lutelike tone and is ideal for the programme which she presents on this disc.

The least familiar name will be Pekka Jalkanen, a Finnish composer whose three-movement suite on this disc is divided amongst the rest of the programme; hence his Preludi begins proceedings, Fantasia follows the first of the Dowland pieces and Nokturni concludes the recital following on from the Bach work. Jalkanen s composition is extraordinary; the three movements explore the naturally resonating harmonics of the guitar in an almost surreal sound-scape of imagery ranging from dark and broody moments to passages of exquisite delicacy. The work, here receiving its premiere recording, was commissioned by Mari Mäntylä.

The two Dowland works are given very good, convincing performances but it is the Bach suite where Mäntylä really shines. The presentation on this disc is an authoritative and highly musical one. She splendidly captures the characteristics of each movement well and easily meets the technical demands of this challenging music. This is a performance which ranks alongside the best of them.

Recording quality and overall production is excellent and I can thoroughly recommend this disc to add to anyone’s CD library.

Steve Marsh, Classical Guitar Magazine

The ten-stringed guitar appeals

Conceived during the baroque period, and having achieved its modern outlook in the 1960s, the ten-stringed guitar is a versatile and imposing instrument: the intimate virtues of the lute are combined within it, with the more overt sonority of the guitar.

When Mari Mäntylä, a splendid master of her instrument, plays the lute works of John Dowland, the gracefulness of the music comes forward through the warm, organ-like bass sound. The lute suite in A minor by J.S. Bach is conveyed on the decacorde in a more enjoyable way than on a regular six-string guitar. Pekka Jalkanen’s familiarity with the guitar can be heard in his suite, consisting of Preludi, Fantasia and Nokturni, in the form of fresh inventions, emerging from the instrument’s characteristics, and the graceful blossoming of the low register.

Veijo Murtomäki, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

Baroque on 16 strings

“Hannu Annala and Mari Mäntylä both belong to the top league of Finnish guitarists. This is a pleasing
recording with a heavy bottom register, good arrangements, clear articulation, and a strong expression of affections.”

Juha Torvinen / FMQ magazine

This highly entertaining CD is an anthology of baroque music arranged for two guitars: the familar 6-
string classical guitar and the decacorde, a less familar 10-string guitar, which has extra strings in the bass descending diatonically as does a theorbo.

First on the CD is Vivaldi’s Sonata in D minor op.1, no 8, beginning with a nicely paced Preludio, where
Hannu Annala and Mari Mäntylä’s good ensemble and sensitive phrasing are to the fore. The lowest strings of the decacorde increase the available range of notes, and give a pleasant warmth to the overall sound. There follows an energetic Corrente, a stark, thinly textured Grave, and a cheerfully bustling Giga, where lightness and delicacy of touch predominate.

In contrast is the Duetto in G major by the lutenist Adam Falckenhagen, written in the gallant style of the
late baroque. The notes describe the opening Largo as “sunny”, and there are certainly some pleasing
interchanges between the two guitars. The third movement, tempo giusto, is more classical in character,
and quite charming.

There follows an arrangement of J.S. Bach’s English Suite no. 3 in G minor (BWV 808). The opening Prelude is full of excitement and a variety of colours, contrasting with the gentle, unhurried Allemande. The two guitars create a gratifyingly dramatic Sarabande, where a low string of the decacorde sustains the opening tonic pedal. This low G comes in handy again with the musette of Gavotte II, and the final Gigue brings the suite to a rollicking close. Having two instruments creates a freedom in the phrasing of individual melodic lines.

The CD ends with a transcription of a Sonata in G minor by Cimarosa, a lively piece where three-against-two rhythms are well co-ordinated.

Stewart McCoy / Early Music Review

Decacorde – Mari Mäntylä

The decacorde is a ten-stringed guitar with a broadened bass register, compared with the ordinary guitar. Mari Mäntylä has previously recorded a bandoneon-decacorde CD with her duo partner Kristina Kuusisto. The record featured elaborate and spirited playing. The main idea of the new recording consists in the interaction between the framework of Pekka Jalkanen’s suite, and the works of Dowland and Bach interposed between the parts of the suite. Thus, a single instrument creates a bridge from the past composers to Jalkanen. All three composers carry and pass the same musical baton in relay. The Preludi of Jalkanen is based on chords in arpeggio, which from time to time give way to melodic lines in unison. In Fantasia, a melancholy downward embryonic melody grows into a more substantial whirl of arpeggios, until it finally, after a fierce torrent, calms into light ripples. The main feature of Nokturni is its song-like character, which now and then both quickens and subsides, whilst sometimes even progressing into aggressive bursts. The playing of Mari Mäntylä is both appealing and elaborate.

Ilkka Ylönen, Muusikko magazine

Eloquent expressions with a guitar

The decacorde or ten-stringed classical guitar on Mari Mäntylä’s record proves to be a rich and resounding instrument. It is as perfectly fit for the classical lute works of John Dowland and J. S. Bach as for the meditative contemporary music of Pekka Jalkanen. The elaborate playing of Mari Mäntyä is sensitive and temperamental.

Lauri Kilpiö, Suomen Kuvalehti magazine

The dusky charm of the decacorde: the ten-string guitar offers a true revelation

Guitar player Mari Mäntylä has specialised in the decacorde – the ten-stringed guitar, the dusky and softly resonating sound of which reaches the low registers of the lute. The decacorde lacks the fragile liveliness of the lute, but is compensated for through an ethereal sound and continuity that are easy on the ear.

With her ultimate pianissimos, Mäntylä provides a breathtaking profundity to the melancholy spirit of John Dowland, as well as to the Allemande and Sarabande movements of Bach’s suite for the lute; in their subtlety, Mäntylä hides almost frightening strength.

The fast movements also sound less strained than on the standard guitar, and the half an hour portion of music becomes a gentle, but clearly characterised whole. The elaborately played details and ornaments are yet additional proof that Mari Mäntylä is a top-level musician.

The Preludi, Fantasia and Nokturni of Pekka Jalkanen are bewilderingly highly suited to the noble company of Bach and Dowland. The minimalistic emotional shades are owed to the past masters, but they first and foremost manage to convey the essence of the decacorde as an instrument.

Kare Eskola, Rondo magazine

The playing by Mari Mäntylä is thoroughly musical and technically flawless. During the Bach suite, she emphasizes the meditative and lyrical character of the slow movements, rather than their dance-related features. The Sarabande and Allemande movements particularly form well bearing and intimate musical arcs.

“New records” on channel YLE 1 (Finnish broadcasting company), Risto Nordell

Mari Mäntylä is one of the few musicians who have mastered this instrument. The fluently flowing and musically rich compositions of Pekka Jalkanen are exquisitely fitting for this instrument. The slow and beautiful melodies of John Dowland and the J. S. Bach’s lute suite open up firm perspectives for the recording. A fine acquaintance!

Matti Saurama, Demari newspaper

It is easy to discover, which of the characteristics of the ten-stringed guitar, namely the decacorde, have fascinated Mari Mäntylä. This big sister of the guitar has an imposing sound, and Mäntylä feasts on the overtones frequently. In Bach’s lute suite No. 3 the admiration of the sound almost turns into the mystification of sombre shades, but still, it is the very sound of the instrument that raises the level of interpretation up above the average masses.

Mikko Nortela, Karjalainen newspaper

At least in the hands of such a master as Mäntylä, the decacorde resounds warmly, and compared with the lute, the resonance is stronger, which gives additional tonal variety to the music. Mäntylä’s record offers a fine musical whole, in which the compositions by Pekka Jalkanen, which comment on the old works of music, sensitize the listener to even more concentrated listening. In these works, the resounding capacity of the decacorde is presented at its best.

Eija-Riitta Airo-Karttunen, Kainuun Sanomat newspaper

Mari Mäntylä was responsible for the most harmonious input of the concert. She played a part from Lachrimae Pavan of John Dowland with a well formed outlining of Dowland’s melancholic form language. Equally, during the Passacaille of the lute virtuoso Leopold Weiss, she was able to convey the technically demanding polyphonic texture with an accomplished technique.

Anders Riska, Västra Nyland newspaper

The Almeida of Mäntylä was fiery and passionate. The interpretations presented an exquisite master, whose excellent technique works for the well-considered artistic goals of her music-making.
-Jarmo Kokkonen, Kainuun Sanomat newspaper

Brand new music on rare instruments

Duo Dryades (Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä): Speira, works composed specially for the bandoneón and the decacorde (Alba)

The first record by the Duo Dryades, Kirmari, drew attention through the vividness and virtuosity of the playing. In the meantime, Mari Mäntylä has brought out at least one decacorde solo album. Owing to the ten strings of the decacorde, this instrument has a special mellowness in its bass notes.

The starting point for the Speira album was to record new music that is custom-made for the Duo Dryades. This idea conceals also a risk; nothing familiar is given to the listener as a point of reference. The album opens with Sonatina Palimpsestica by a French composer Vincent Bouchot. A palimpsest is a manuscript on parchment, from which the original text has been scraped off and a new text has been applied. One should find two layers in the composition: the surface and the remains of the underlying old text. The music is inventive and has exiting sounds in it.

Promenades is a small-scale suite by German Sid Hille, now resident in Finland. The music describes affectionately the composer’s former places of residence in France. This divertimento-like composition unfolds easily to the listener.

There is something surrealistic or even oppressive in the whirls of Iiris Kosonen’s Mariatyyri.

Speira (chrysalis, spiral) by Pekka Jalkanen includes meditative passages and musical condensations. An excerpt from a hymn by Limenos from the time B.C.E. has served as source material for the composition. In his composition, Jalkanen has taken an ancient Greek spiral ornament as a model, hence the name of the piece. In the chinking arpeggio chords of the decacorde one may imagine echoes of the Greek lyre. As a counterweight, the climax of the first part strikes almost violently. The second part is an intimate, yet powerful song of the guitar. The third part is a virtuosic and boisterous cavalcade of rhythms from all over the world.

Finlandia by Harri Wessman serves as the tonal dessert of the record. Originally a song cycle, Mäntylä and Kuusisto have made up an instrumental duet version of it. Lapones leads us to South America, Ritmos further away to some place in the Balkans, Tango marches and longs for Russia, and finally, one expects that the finishing part Verano will find its way to Finland, but it bursts into Latino rhythms as well.

It is a pleasure to listen to the playing of this duo.

Ilkka Ylönen, Muusikko magazine, 8/2010

Sparkling baroque music on two guitars

“From the very first track, one senses a tranquilly flowing and sweet melancholy mood, which culminates in the Allemande and Sarabande of the English Suite. The nostalgia becomes nearly transcendental in Scartatti’s Sonata played solo by Mäntylä. The long collaboration of Annala and Mäntylä as a duo can be heard in the peaceful breathing of the music. With the arrangement for two guitars, the duo needn’t push the limits of technical mastery; instead, the players can concentrate on nuanced timbre and eloquent phrasing.”

Kare Eskola / Uudet levyt (Radio programme “New Album Releases”)

The union of the decacorde and the bandoneón

On its new Speira CD the Duo Dryades has collected music that has been specifically composed for this pair of instruments. The composers of the album are Sid Hille, Vincent Bouchot, Iiris Kosonen, Pekka Jalkanen and Harri Wessman. All these composers have interiorized in a remarkable way the fascinating sound sphere of these two instruments and this has resulted in a musically variable and interesting record. This impression is emphasised by the fact that the musicians of the Duo Dryades seem to be on the same musical wavelength. The playing has clear-cut outlining and the interpretations are brave considering both nuances and tempos.

Risto Nordell, YLE Radio 1, Sept. 2010

A bandoneón-decacorde duo is an extremely rare, if not a unique, ensemble. In the hands of Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä it proves to be a viable combination.

The accordion that has become known through the Argentinean tango and the 10-stringed guitar meet in a fruitful crossing of influences with backstreet melancholy, modern timbre effects, classical technique, fiery accents, energetic rhythm and jazzy casualness.

The title track Speira by Pekka Jalkanen, stands out as the fullest and mellowest of all the compositions, whereas Sonatina palimpsestica by Vincent Bouchot appeals to the listener with its fragile vibration. The Promenades by Sid Hille resound with an unstrained simplicity. Finlandia by Harri Wessman charts his native Finland with affectionate melancholy, but with a twinkle in his eye.

Jukka Isopuro, Helsingin Sanomat, Sept. 2010

In its first recording, the Duo Dryades comes close to the aesthetics typical of the ECM New Series. The soulful bandoneón of Kristina Kuusisto and the profoundly sonorous decacorde, the ten-string guitar of Mari Mäntylä create an organic sound that draws shades from tango nuevo, art music and jazz. The overall ambience of the recording is supported by the specially commissioned and well-prepared programme, which entwines a determined and subtle, yet an easily approachable whole.

The long cooperation and spiritual sisterhood of Kuusisto and Mäntylä is clearly heard in the Bouchot’s Sonatine, in which they render the flickering visions smoothly. The Mariatyyri by Iiris Kosonen is made of more emphatic stuff, but thanks to the light and rhythmically precise playing, an air of tranquillity prevails throughout the piece. Ingenuous and technically crystal bright playing make the late Impressionism of Sid Hille and the pseudo-oriental moods of Pekka Jalkanen convincing. The most convivial offering of the record is the four-part suite Finlandia by Harri Wessman, in which an entertaining Latin-Americanism sheds a light of jovial irony on the title.

Kare Eskola, Rondo magazine 8/2010

Dominus Krabbe monologue opera

The many-sidedness of the voice and stage personality of Teppo Lampela has inspired Jalkanen to compose vividly varying vocal lines. The text was clearly rendered and the narration was easy to follow. Each story added to the intensity of the work, reaching its culmination in the impressive sermon of the ghost Krabbe. The basic ambience of the opera is serious, but the tale of the church guard Optaatus brings some necessary humorous relief. Shaven-headed Lampela had the apt look of a ghost, resembling somewhat the Frost creature in Hugo Simberg’s painting, or the mummy-like figure in The Scream by Edvard Munch.
The décacorde part, played by Mari Mäntylä, has been written with colourful orchestral style. Based on archetypal melodic passages, the décacorde weaves an intensively smooth texture, upon which the vocal line is drawn. Like the guitar, the décacorde is an optimal companion for a singing voice, as it never overruns even the faintest sighs of the singer. In a couple of places Mäntylä joined in the singing too.

The direction of Kimmo Kahra and the costumes of Reija Laine created a clear and ritual-like setting for the performance. The staging emphasized aptly the dream-like timelessness of Jalkanen’s opera.

Juha T Koskinen, Amfion

An exceptional duo, which seduces with its skillful performances. The performances of the duo are excellent, and both of the musicians generate fine tones out of their demanding instruments. The close collaboration of the duo with contemporary composers is a pleasant fact, which has resulted in a new repertory for this exceptional ensemble.
-Janne Koskinen / Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE – Radio 1

Two rarely played instruments – the bandoneon and the decacorde together, create a fine combination of timbres. The duo of Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä has released a great album.
-Hanuri magazine

It has only taken a combination of two surprisingly versatile instruments and two devoted musicians to create a spectrum of amazing tonal variety.
-Riitta Pietilä, Rondo magazine

Two subtle instruments and thoroughbred musicians offer an intensely undergoing and experiential musical journey for their listeners.
-Voi Hyvin magazine

Here, we deal with music that extends far beyond the limits of everyday idioms. It represents a new and delightful “third stream”; music that is capable of integrating both popular and folk music with art music. The real clue of the recording is in how they have made these pieces of music sound.

These girls know how to play! -Askel magazine

Their collaboration flows like crystallised thought, spiced with warm emotions. -Erkki Lehtiranta, Minä Olen magazine

An interesting and beautifully resounding firstling. -Pertti Asplund, Aksentti magazine

The recording of a rarely heard ensemble is original and refined. The chamber music collaboration flows naturally and promptly with sensitive reactivity. Mäntylä’s playing has a rich touch and sound and her technical accuracy is flawless. It only takes listening to the first Piazzolla bass progression and you will already be covered in goose bumps. The inexhaustible and always appropriate shades of sounds of the Kuusisto bandoneon will not allow the listener to slacken for a single moment. Finally, the first and foremost feature of a quality recording: it becomes better and better on each listening.
-Juan Antonio Muro, Kitaristi magazine

You will be able to hear both the passion of the Argentinean tango nuevo, the gaiety of Breton folk music and the original melancholy of the Finnish spirit – the effect is tremendous.
-Pirkko Vekkeli, Gloria magazine

The concert by the Bandoneon Decacorde Duo of Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä left no one untouched.
-Pirjo Kuorikoski-Lindberg, Ilkka newspaper

The sphere of sound offered by the recording is thrilling and colourful. The instruments are united with their sounds in a fabulous way and the hearing experience soothes the soul of the listener.
-J-P. Laitio-Ramone, Pohjalainen newspaper

Kirmari is a strong and versatile whole. For the major part, the material of the album represents compelling moody shades; however the duo is also capable of delivering more vivid expressions.
-Jukka Kittilä, Tejuka

The combination of the fieriness of a Latin tango country and the iciness of the Scandinavian home land of Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä is probably the key to the the number of applauds heard during this musical evening at the Al-Bustani festival. -Rabih Chami Al-Balad

Mäntylä and Kuusisto are true virtuosi in the proper sense of the word. Apart from their virtuosity, they are full-blooded musicians who have created a seamless joint musical will during their collaboration as a duo. Their playing is often a true gourmandise of elaborate details, which create an elegant whole at the same time.
-Jarmo Kokkonen, Kainuun Sanomat newspaper

During the brilliant evening of Kuusisto and Mäntylä, the musical information and feeling dovetailed perfectly. The evening was fresh and cleansing, the musicians were brilliant, the composition of the programme was palatable and the audience was delighted. In short, the evening offered the caressing of souls without any barriers.
-Vesa Liukko, Pyhäjokiseutu newspaper

The first performer of the concert, the Bandoneon Decacorde Duo of Kristina Kuusisto and Mari Mäntylä was an exquisite surprise. The bandoneon was charged with rich nuances and the ten-stringed decacorde guitar of Mäntylä projected effective vigour. The musical landscapes of the duo stretched from South America to the northern homelands of the polska dances of Scandinavia.
-Jukka Hauru, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper