Sisääntulossikerma [1:55], Hämähäkki [2:56], Pippolan vaari [1:23], Täti Moniker [2:18] (arr. Lauri Pulakka)
Toy Symphony (arr. Pulakka) [9:10]
Magdaleena (arr. Pulakka) [3:04]
Peppi Pitkätossu (arr. Pulakka) [1:50]
The Little Shepherd (arr. Pulakka) [2:45], Gollywog’s Cake Walk (arr. Pulakka) [2:45]
Satakelo (arr. Pulakka) [37:15]
Sinikka Sokka (soprano/narrator)
Keski-Pohjanmaan Kamariorkesteri/Lauri Pulakka
rec. 2008, Kansantaiteen keskuksessa, Finland. DDD
ALBA ABCD 280 [70:53]
This is a disc of Finnish music for children, in orchestral arrangements made by Lauri Pulakka. There is a distinct charm to the music, and the arrangements are imaginative and appealing. Some of the melodies are familiar to us, such as Incy wincy spider and Old macdonald. The charming Täti Moniker has some wonderfully humorous moments and Sinikka Sokka’s singing is communicative and extremely enjoyable.
Leopold Mozart’s Toy Symphony never fails to delight children, young and old, and its inclusion here is welcome. The Keski-Pohjanmaan Kamariorkesteri has a wonderfully bright sound and they perform with a sense of joy.
Pienet sievät begins with a dark, minor key melody, which breaks into an upbeat folk-style groove. The mood becomes more classical, but with some comical contemporary techniques thrown in; this would be an utter delight for children. A Wagnerian influence appears, followed by Purcell, and one has the sense of Pulakka’s excellence as an orchestrator. This disc will serve to introduce children to classical music of all styles, in such a way that makes it fun and based in the familiarity of well-known melodies. As an educational tool, this is excellent; but even taken at face value as music in its own right, it is a success.
Magdaleena is calmer, a gentle ballad which is sung with lyrical phrasing. Peppi Pitkätossu (Pippi Longstocking) features a solo for the double bass section, and new arrangements of Debussy’s The Little Shepherd and Gollywog’s Cake Walk once again demonstrate imaginative orchestration skills.
Satakieli is a longer work, lasting almost 40 minutes, and based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale about the nightingale. The story is narrated, and the nightingale is represented by beautifully played solo flute, while the mechanical nightingale is represented by a synthesised harpsichord. A lack of understanding of Finnish means that the story itself is lost, but the music creates characters and atmospheres which are successful in themselves and would perhaps encourage listeners to find out about the story in their own language. It is a story which has been set to music before, most notably by Stravinsky, and the story was thought to have been written for the opera singer Jenny Lind, who had a close relationship with Andersen. The musical environment for this setting is rich and contemporary; although the language is based in tonality and is less daring harmonically than Stravinsky’s setting, the writing reflects contemporary technology (especially in the wonderful mechanical nightingale with its drum machine accompaniment) and has a modern feel.
Sadly the sleeve-notes are only provided in Finnish, and a web search also yielded little in English, but the music on this disc requires no particular translation; the music is well performed and has instant appeal. Listening to this disc made me happy. I can only imagine the effect it would have on a curious child. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this became a child’s CD of choice, played constantly and possibly even with an imaginative child trying to sing along in Finnish. I remember as a child having a tape of the Smurfs in Danish and was convinced I knew every word… This is a well produced disc with good playing throughout, which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike.