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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Leevi MADETOJA (1887-1947)
Okon Fuoko - a ballet pantomime op. 58 (1927) [76:51]
Helena Juntunen, soprano/Tuomas Katajala, tenor/Oulun Kamarikuoro/Oulun kaupunginorkesteri/Arvo Volmer
rec. Madetoja Hall, Oulu Music Centre, 26-29 Aug 2002, 31 Jan 2003. DDD
ALBA ABCD 184 [76:51]


In the last few months the Finnish company Alba has given us recordings of two full-length Scandinavian ballets previously known only in suite form. Alongside Okon Fuoko we have Tubin's Kratt. Both scores are very warmly welcomed and enthusiasts should lose no time in buying copies.


Okon Fuoko was premiered complete in Helsinki in December 1927. Madetoja planned to make three ballet suites from the music but only one was completed.

The story of Okon Fuoko is set in Japan. The puppet maker Okon Fuoko, whose wife is Yiai, has created the puppet Umegava. Okon Fuoko becomes infatuated with the puppet. Umegava comes to life and eventually kills her creator.

The storyline is Japanese but the outline is universal mixing elements of Petrushka, the Golem and Don Giovanni where the statue comes alive wreaking retribution in an atmosphere of verismo horror. Unlike Mahler's Das Lied, Holst's Japanese Suite, Lambert Li Tai Po songs or Bliss's Women of Yu'eh there is very little in the way of obvious Japanese musical allusions - except briefly at Umegava's Mechnical Dance (tr.19). There's also the gong in The Guests arrive (trs. 9, 16) and Puppet Dance III but this is followed by urbane and affable promenade music. Other ‘flavours’ include the use of castanets (tr. 18). Woodblocks are to be heard in Puppet Dance I and Okon Fuoko's Death. The writing for woodwind is distinctive and often plaintive. I must not give the impression of a score that is all sighs and evanescence - listen for example to the stabbing and incisive chanting of Puppet Dance I.

Madetoja’s teachers were Järnefelt, Sibelius, d'Indy and Fuchs. Only in Okon Fuoko's and Umegava's dance I (tr. 26) did I sense Sibelius's influence at all though in that case it was quite pungent.

Okon Fuoko is a richly decorated score full of delicately painted incident and mood. It can be compared with Ravel's Daphnis although for much of them time it is emotionally cooler than that work. There are sections in which there is singing from the soloists and Helena Juntunen takes the Yiai's Song I (trs. 5, 34) and II (tr. 7). In the few tracks in which Tuomas Katajala sings his heroic tones and bronzed higher range take on a sensual Puccinian edge .

In The Chorus's Song, Umegava stops smiling and Okon Fuoko Dies we hear the delightful metronomic chaffing of the flutes similar to the very same ticking ostinato that launches the sometimes delightful and sometimes torridly romantic Madetoja Second Symphony (don’t miss it on Warner Apex review).

Also recurrently woven into the music is the Dies Irae which puts in a subtle but telling appearance in the finale: Okon Fuoko Dies. The music sighs and breathes in beauty but can also be chilly as in Yiai shows the guests Umegava (tr. 18). Umegava's demonic dance (tr. 30) certainly owes more than a little to Petrushka.

Overall this is an extremely attractive score which will hold wide appeal. The writing is personable and anyone who enjoys Ravel, early Copland (Appalachian Spring), the impressionistic-nationalist Uuno Klami (whose style can be hard in tr. 27 Okon Fuoko's Dance II and Umegava's Sword Dance tr. 32) must track down this treasurable release.

The tracking is very well done with cues for all 35 episodes - some as short as 00:30 others as long as 4:53 (Okon Fuoko paints Umegava's face) and 4:35 (Okon Fuoko dies).

The Oulu Orchestra is from Madetoja's birthplace which adds an intriguing additional dimension to the experience of hearing this disc.

As expected the disc is superbly documented.

I hope that Alba will not stop with Okon Fuoko. There is yet more Madetoja to be recorded for the first time. They should consider the cantata Sammon ryöstö - the Conquest of the Sampo - for male chorus and orchestra and the Stabat Mater for voices, strings and organ not to mention the piano trio. There's also a sprinkling of works for violin and piano and these include a sonatina.
An extremely attractive and imaginative dance score that will hold wide appeal. The impressionistic-nationalist writing is captivating

Rob Barnett

Detailed track listing (English and Finnish)
1 Okon Fuoko paints Umegava’s face
2 Okon Fuoko plays to Umegava
Oulu Chamber Choir; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
3 The chorus’s song
Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
4 Umegava stops smiling
Helena Juntunen, soprano; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
5 Yiai’s song I
Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
6 Okon Fuoko and Yiai recall their early love
Helena Juntunen, soprano; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
7 Yiai’s song II
Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
8 Yiai tells of a dream
9 The guests arrive I – The tea ceremony
10 Puppet dance I: geishas and warrior
11 Puppet dance II: woman and man
12 Puppet dance III: old man, woman and young warrior
13 Puppet dance III (cont.): enter six old men
14 Hara-kiri
15 The guests converse
16 The guests arrive II
Tuomas Katajala, tenor; Oulu Chamber Choir; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
17 Okon Fuoko’s recitative
Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
18 Yiai shows the guests Umegava
19 Umegava’s mechanical dance
20 The guests converse
21 Okon Fuoko’s dance to Umegava
Oulu Chamber Choir; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
22 The chorus’s song
Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
23 Yiai dances
24 Night falls
25 Umegava comes to life
26 Okon Fuoko’s and Umegava’s dance I
27 Okon Fuoko’s and Umegava’s dance II
28 The storm
29 Umegava dances Yiai’s dance
30 Umegava’s seductive dance
31 Umegava picks up the sword
32 Umegava’s demonic dance (sword dance)
33 Puppet dance IV: The storm and Okon Fuoko’s death
Helena Juntunen, soprano; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
34 Yiai’s song I
Helena Juntunen, soprano; Oulu Chamber Choir; Oulu Symphony Orchestra:
35 Okon Fuoko dies
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
Madetoja, Leevi (1887-1947):
1 Okon Fuoko maalaa Umegavan kasvoja 4:53
2 Okon Fuoko soittaa Umegavalle 3:05
Oulun Kamarikuoro; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
3 Kuoron laulu 3:00
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
4 Umegava lakkaa hymyilemästä 0:56
Helena Juntunen, sopraano; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
5 Yiain laulu I 3:16
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
6 Okon Fuoko ja Yiai muistelevat rakkautensa alkuaikaa 0:53
Helena Juntunen, sopraano; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
7 Yiain laulu II 1:43
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
8 Yiai kertoo unestaan 0:30
9 Vieraat saapuvat I – Teeseremonia 2:21
10 Nukketanssi I: Geishat ja soturit 2:22
11 Nukketanssi II: Nainen ja mies 3:20
12 Nukketanssi III: Vanhus, nainen ja nuori soturi 2:21
13 Nukketanssi III (jatkuu): Kuusi vanhusta saapuvat 0:45
14 Harakiri 2:29
15 Vieraat keskustelevat 0:44
16 Vieraat saapuvat II 0:42
Tuomas Katajala, tenori; Oulun Kamarikuoro; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
17 Okon Fuokon resitatiivi 2:17
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
18 Yiai esittelee Umegavan 1:11
19 Umegavan mekaaninen tanssi 1:20
20 Vieraat keskustelevat 0:54
21 Okon Fuokon tanssi Umegavalle 2:04
Oulun Kamarikuoro; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
22 Kuoron laulu 5:39
Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
23 Yiain tanssi 1:50
24 Yö laskeutuu 2:09
25 Umegavan herääminen 2:40
26 Okon Fuokon ja Umegavan tanssi I 2:21
27 Okon Fuokon ja Umegavan tanssi II 1:41
28 Myrskykohtaus 1:23
29 Umegava tanssii Yiain tanssin 1:57
30 Umegavan viettelevä tanssi 1:39
31 Umegava ottaa miekan 1:27
32 Umegavan demoninen tanssi (Miekkatanssi) 1:42
33 Nukketanssi IV: Myrsky, Okon Fuokon kuolema 3:09
Helena Juntunen, sopraano; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
34 Yiain laulu I 3:30
Helena Juntunen, sopraano; Oulun Kamarikuoro; Oulun kaupunginorkesteri:
35 Okon Fuoko on kuollut 4:35

 



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