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Jean SIBELIUS (1865–1957)
1. Svarta rosor, Op. 36, No. 1 (Ivar Hellman) [1:49]
2. Säv, säv, suda, Op. 36, No. 4 (Ivar Hellman) [2:32]
3. Demanten på marssnön, Op. 36, No. 6 (Ivar Hellman) [2:21]
4. På verandan vid havet, Op. 38, No. 2 [3:28]
5. Under strandens granar, Op. 13, No. 1 (Jussi Jalas) [4:45]
6. Våren flyktar hastigt, Op. 13, No. 4 [1.40]
7. Kom nu hit, död, Op. 60, No. 1 [2:35]
8. Var det en dröm? Op. 37, No. 4 (Jussi Jalas) [2:04]
9. Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte, Op. 37, No. 5 (Ernst Pingoud) [2:57]
10. Im Feld ein Mädchen singt, Op. 50, No. 3 (Simon Parmet) [2:51]
11. Die stille Stadt, Op. 50, No. 5 (Leif Segerstam) [2:52]
12. Aus banger Brust, Op. 50, No. 4 (Leif Segerstam) [2:21]
13. Koskenlaskijan morsiamet, Op. 33 [9:06]
14. Lastu lainehilla, Op. 17, No. 7 (Ernst Pingoud) [1:13]
15. Illalle, Op. 17, No. 6 (Jussi Jalas) [1:27]
16. Souda, souda, sinisorsa (Jussi Jalas) [1:15]
17. Kaiutar, Op. 72, No. 4 (Jussi Jalas) [2:58]
18. Laulu ristilukista, Op. 27, No. 4 [4:09]
(arranger in parenthesis)
Jorma Hynninen (baritone)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
rec. Tampere Hall, March 1994
ONDINE ODE 823-2 [53:49]

2007 is a Nordic Commemoration Year – it’s 100 years since Edvard Grieg passed away and fifty years since the demise of Jean Sibelius – the possibly two greatest Nordic composers. Commemorations also imply issues and reissues of recordings, and even though 100 years is a more important commemoration, there will certainly be a number of Sibelius issues. I have already had two brand new song discs from Naxos and here comes from Ondine, a reissue of a thirteen-year-old disc with orchestral songs, sung by the doyen of Finnish baritones and Sibelius champions, Jorma Hynninen. Born in 1941 he is still active and is scheduled to sing Topi in The Red Line at the Finnish National Opera next spring. Hearing him just a few years ago, singing Posa in Don Carlo, it was clear that he was vocally in excellent shape and on the present recording, made ten years earlier, there is hardly any complaint concerning voice production. Interpretatively there is even less reason to raise objection. Finnish songs in general and those by Sibelius in particular has always been a major concern for Hynninen. It is obvious from the very first phrases that he knows the songs inside out, has considered every nuance, every phrasing to perfection. His insight is of the kind that only long acquaintance can bring about and his enunciation of the text is a model of clarity and expressiveness.

The well-known Svarta rosor (Black roses) encapsulates intense melancholy at its most chilling. The last line of each stanza, “for sorrow’s roses are black as night” smooth and hushed the first two times, as if he can hardly bring himself to pronounce the words, but the last time they are sung at a desperate, uninhibited fortissimo. Säv, säv, susa (Sigh, rushes, sigh) is sung initially at a hushed legato, in a whispered question to the rushes, but then Fröding’s many faceted poem unfolds to a bitter tale, where Sibelius’s setting catches in masterly fashion all the cruelty, all the sorrow. Hynninen’s reading, as always, finds the right expression for every word. Demanten på marssnön has great warmth and Viktor Rydberg’s På verandan vid havet has a fateful mood with doom-laden Wagnerian brass chords. There are echoes of Wagner also in the dark, murmuring backdrop to Under strandens granar, where the narrative is brought forth in a dramatic, expressive recitative.

The setting of Bertel Gripenberg’s reading of Come Away, Death! from Twelfth Night, written for voice and guitar for a production of Shakespeare’s play at the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki, makes one believe that Sibelius could have been a magnificent opera composer. The arrangement for string orchestra and harp heard here, was adapted during Sibelius’s last year. In the last of the nine songs to Swedish texts, Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings mote, one of my favourite songs, Hynninen once again demonstrates what a marvellous story-teller he is.

Some of the other nine songs are not heard quite so often, which is a pity, since they are out of the composer’s top drawer. The three songs to German texts, for example: Im Feld ein Mädchen singt and Die stille Stadt, are both inward and lyrical and sung with beautiful restraint. Leif Segerstam’s arrangement for the latter is simple, sparse and effective, dominated by the harp, while Aus banger Brust is a dramatic, stormy song with dark orchestration. Those who know Antal Dorati’s orchestral arrangements of eight of Allan Pettersson’s Barfotasånger (Barefoot Songs) may recognise something of the tonal language.

The large Koskenlaskijan morsiamet (The Rapids-shooter’s Brides) from 1897 is a monumental scene or ballad, where the forces of nature, in this case the roaring water of the falls, are omni-present in the orchestra. The miniatures from Op. 17 are beautiful examples of Sibelius’ lyric writing, the late Kaiutar is again dramatic and Laulu ristilukista (The Song of the Cross-spider) is yet another piece written for the theatre, Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II from 1898.

All through this varied and attractive programme Hynninen’s singing is on such a high level, vocally and interpretatively, that it makes it hard to believe that anyone could challenge him, unless it be his younger self. Ten years earlier he recorded some of these songs for BIS with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and with Jorma Panula conducting. He shared this disc with Swedish soprano Mari Anne Häggander. It can be warmly recommended alongside the present one. Interpretatively they are fairly close; The Song of the Cross-spider even livelier and more dramatic. Vocally the ten-year-younger Hynninen is marginally fresher. The BIS disc is also worth having for Häggander’s singing. Anyone wanting a splendid disc with Sibelius’s orchestral songs – and everybody should – are advised to place an order for this Ondine disc immediately. Even though the Tampere Philharmonic may not be as well-known an orchestra as some other bands in the region one can rest assured that they play the music of their beloved compatriot with all the glow and authenticity needed. Of course Leif Segerstam never lets a project like this down. The booklet has a good essay on the songs and artists’ biographies and – which is no longer a matter of course – full texts and translations.

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Göran Forsling



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