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Nordic Autumn – Orchestral Songs
Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884-1947)
Den utvalda
(The Chosen One) – Lyrical Scene to words by Hjalmar Gullberg (1939) [23:04]
Leevi MADETOJA (1887-1947)
Syksy
(Autumn) Op. 68 – song cycle in Finnish to words by L Onervo (1930-1940) [16:04]
Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951)
En sällsam fågel
(A Rare Bird), Op. 95 – words by Bertel Gripenberg (1940s) [6:57]
Aamun autereessa (In the morning mist), Op. 106 no 2 - words by Larin Kyösti (1940s) [1:36]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Luonnotar
Op. 70 (1910) [9:07]
Camilla Nylund (soprano)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Ulf Schirmer
rec. Studio 1 Bayerischen Rundfunks München, 25-29 September 2006. DDD
CPO 777 262-2 [56:57]
Experience Classicsonline

Distilled Nordic magic – that’s what we have here – songs in melodic, diaphanous late-romantic finery.
 
This disc arrives in the same month as Bridge’s similarly timed collection of rare American orchestral songs. Oddly enough that too has a Scandinavian connection having been recorded with the Odense Orchestra in Denmark. It is interesting that the present project was done in Munich rather than in one of the Scandinavian cities although this presumably is down to the joint production with Bayerischer Rundfunk.
 
The nine songs of Rangström’s Den utvalda (The Chosen One) are deeply impressive and are well placed first on the disc. They demand and in Camilla Nylund get a soprano of prodigious histrionic range, technical accomplishment, sensitivity and ringing majesty. The songs variously erupt in voluptuous grand-Wagnerian conflagration (Festive preparation), hymn nature in the tones of a girlish ingénue, confide in hushed and tense whispers and serenade in seductive lyricism all dressed in impressionistic finery. The orchestra is used and responds virtuosically including the sunset melancholy of the oboe in The Sleep of the Five Senses. The effect of avian voices haunts the writing throughout. As for the six songs of Palmgren’s Syksy these are more gentle, less volatile than the tinder and benzine of Rangström although the last song O’er the waves eternally has a luscious grandeur ending with brass growls and the silver-splinter crash of the tam-tam. They do not lack determination but the poetic muse is certainly alive in the mood-painting. Palmgren, who between 1921 and 1926 taught at the Eastman School, is better known for his piano music whether the piano concertos (Finlandia) or solo (Finlandia). Izumi Tateno (b. 1936) has since the 1960s been his most consistent champion having early on recorded the lapidary Second Piano Concerto The River for EMI. His A Rare Bird is a work written from peace and contentment, shaped by folksong and lambent with smiling Straussian ecstasy. Much the same applies to the much shorter song In the Morning Mist.
 
The disc ends with a work once rarely encountered and now far more accessible. It is Sibelius’s Luonnotar, an extraordinary creation-epic tone-poem taking words from The Kalevala. I always mentally group this work with the Sixth Symphony and The Bard. After years in which there were few recordings - Phyllis Curtin for Bernstein (CBS), Gwyneth Jones for Dorati (EMI) and Taru Valjakka for Berglund (EMI) – the last few decades have seen changes. We now have Soile Isokoski, Helena Juntunen, Mari-Anne Häggander, Solveig Kringelborn and Elisabeth Söderström. It is one of the most demanding tests of a singer. Its whispered precise ostinato from the strings is gripping but then Sibelius is the master of the ostinato as we also hear in Nightride and Sunrise. Nylund is superb at every tier of demand made by Sibelius. There is only one moment when on the impossibly demanding sustained high note at 5:05 her voice transiently dries yet on the final notes her voice maintains its moist fullness down to niente. Luonnotar is extraordinary – carrying the undertones and impact of symphonic ambit in a succinct and very poetic casing.
 
If you enjoy Strauss’s Four Last Songs, the sensuously orchestral Bantock as in the Sappho Songs (see review) or the orchestral songs of Zemlinsky and Schulhoff (see review) then you must hear this.
 
The words for all the songs are printed in the CPO booklet as sung and side by side in German and English translation.
 
Deeply pleasing, tender and flammable singing and playing which will I hope prompt what deserves to be a series drawing on the hidden treasury of Scandinavian orchestral song repertoire.
 
Rob Barnett
 
Ann Ozorio’s appreciation of Sibelius’s Luonnotar

 


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