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OF THE MONTH
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OF THE MONTH
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
12. Aus banger Brust, Op. 50, No. 4 (Leif
13. Koskenlaskijan morsiamet, Op. 33 [9:06]
14. Lastu lainehilla, Op. 17, No. 7 (Ernst
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)
Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Leif Segerstam
rec. Tampere Hall, March 1994
ONDINE ODE 823-2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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