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Kanteletar-Lauluja op 100
A selection of 26 Songs for soloists and piano
sung by Camilla Nylund (sop), Hans Lydman (bar), accompanied by Peter Stamm
recorded November 4-17, 1997 and January 26-28 1998.
CPO 999 575-2 DDD Stereo, [65 18]
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Once more CPO has us in their debt. Like Hyperion in the UK, this German specialist company has recorded much that is unfamiliar in first class "musical" recordings, often recorded in collaboration with radio organisations through northern Europe and further afield.

This time, they have brought to our attention the songs of Yrjo Kilpinen (1892 - 1959), a collection of 26 songs extracted from a much larger oeuvre of 64. What are they like ? At first hearing, I thought that they were somewhat inconsequential, and very simple, many like nursery songs. After listening to a few more they became quite hypnotic, and by the end of the disc I had enjoyed the experience. Indeed I have returned to the disc and re-listened to quite a few with great pleasure.

The are beautifully sung by two young soloists, Camilla Nylund and Hans Lydman, both having been trained in Vaasa, Finland. As they are singing in their native tongue, there are no major linguistic problems and because of the kind of music, and neither has their voice under any strain whatsoever. The accompaniment by Peter Stamm is both clear and strong, and the acoustic within which the recording is set is completely unobtrusive.

Yrjo Kilpinen is primarily a song writer, having completed some 600 songs. This alone, makes him perhaps the most prolific of any composer of the 20th Century in this area. Given that this selection is both tuneful and not at all difficult, why is Kilpinen so unknown. Indeed, as the extremely informative booklet which accompanies this release says, he is not even well known in his own country, and his works are seldom performed.

As to the reason for this, the booklet puts forward the idea that many of his early songs which appeared in the early 30s, were mainly based upon German texts. This, plus the fact that the songs were both simple and melodic, when the European musical establishment was in the throes of the avant garde, together caused him to be eclipsed by other composers. Just because a composer writes in a form which is unfashionable, does not make him a bad composer, and so we have with Kilpinen.

His harmonic style is simple, based somewhat distantly on old church modes and on the pentatonic scales of Finno-Ugrian music, with short melodies and tensions. Indeed we have come more or less through a complete circle, as the modern minimalist approach to much music is based upon simplicity of this kind, although the monotonous repetition of the modern approach is missing from these songs.

Perhaps this is just the time to experiment and give this disc a hearing - I enjoyed it very much. Full marks to CPO.


John Phillips


John Phillips

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