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Talviomenoita – Winter Apples - Finnish National Romantic Choral Music
Track-listing at end of review
Terttu Iso-Oja (soprano), Tuomas Katajala (tenor), Joose Vähäsöyrinki (bass)
Klemetti Institute Chamber Choir/Heikki Liimola
rec. 19-22 June 2010, Tampere Hall, Small Auditorium.
Finnish texts and English translations included

Experience Classicsonline

This is an excellent anthology of Finnish choral music written at the peak of the nationalistic Romantic Movement in the late 19th – early 20th century. Art played an important role in the forming of the Finnish national idea, and choral singing was one of the most influential forces in this process. It was like a bridge thrown between the present, with the active development of the Finnish language and national art, – and the past, where the roots of it all grew in the great epos that is the Kalevala. This was not the art of aristocrats that only dwelt in elite salons: this was the voice of the nation, the people itself. Italian is always claimed to be the singing language par excellence; but the vowel-rich Finnish shares many of the same qualities, and is also very fit to be sung.
Be prepared for a rather uniform 80 minutes. The numbers are not very diverse, but they are beautiful and hold together well. Some music is quite conventionally Romantic; many numbers are deliberately folk-like, in the spirit of the moment, with the characteristic 5/4 rhythm of Kalevala. There are some moments of exquisite beauty.
The most memorable works are by Sibelius and Madetoja. Venematka is vigorous and merry. Rakastava is a large multi-layered canvas. It starts as a narration, with a slight inflection of sadness. The middle part is unique in its sonic solution: rippling, ever-moving, lighted and warm. The last section incorporates soloists; its mood is balanced and happy. Broken Voice has Sibelian signature tension and sadness; it is simple and personal.
The three songs by Madetoja are beautiful, each in its diverse way. I Went on a Summer Night is sad and resembles the Libera me from Fauré’s Requiem. The tenor of Tuomas Katajala is noble, restrained yet expressive. Thus Spoke Sleep, with a soprano solo, is like a tender lullaby, but with tension. The third song, again with tenor, is vibrant and moving. The combination of the sharp emotional tenor – almost a baritone – at the lower end and the waving veils of the women’s voices on the top creates a strange inversion and a beautiful, poignant feeling.
Kuula’s short sketches are not all memorable. His music is rather unvaried, but his choral writing is masterful. For example, he uses fugal technique in the Apple Tree song – and the music, while still rooted in the national Finnish tradition, attains a Bachian grandeur. The Caravan Chorus contains some mesmerizing superimposition of voice layers. The Melody rises to an impressive choral culmination.
The works by Palmgren did not impress me; neither their melodies nor their effects. They are however well wrought, well laid out for the chorus, and superbly sung. I can’t say that they are boring, but they are very uniform. I liked his Lullaby: aureate, softly rocking, calm and kind-hearted.
If we consider the chorus to be a musical instrument, then this one is very well-tuned. Its sound is warm, granulated and velvety. The diction is excellent, without the lisping “s”. The chorus sings carefully and accurately. The sopranos are gentle; the foundation is to be found in the sturdy, solid Baltic basses; the internal voices are assured and reliable. The chorus can project power, as in Palmgren’s Poplars, or in Kuula’s hymn-like Sunrise – but can also be very delicate. The three soloists have strong, attractive voices, which seem to grow out of the chorus – probably the recording engineer’s decision, but it was an excellent one.
The booklet is exemplary. In Finnish and English, it tells us about the historical and cultural background of the time in which the songs were composed, about the history of choral singing in Finland, about the creators of the texts and the composers, and about each song. The lyrics are given with good English translations. The entire release has an air of quality.
Oleg Ledeniov

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Venematka (The boat journey), Op.18/3 (1893/1914) [1:$3]
Rakastava (The lover) (1894/98) [7:35]
Sortunut ääni (The broken voice), Op.18/1 (1898) [1:37]
Toivo KUULA (1883-1918)
Venelaulu (Barcarole), Op.21/2 (1912) [1:18]
Kevätlaulu (Spring song), Op.11/7 (1910) [2:22]
Siell’ on kauan jo kukkineet omenapuut (Over yonder the blossoming apple tree stands), Op.11/1 (1908) [5:07]
Auringon noustessa (Sunrise), Op.11/3 (1910) [4:02]
Karavaanikuoro (Caravan Chorus), Op.21/1 (Op.34b/2) (1912) [5:13]
Nuku (Sleep) [2:41]
Sävel (The melody) [2:48]
Armas JÄRNEFELT (1869-1958)
Armahan Kulku (The path of the beloved) (1897) [1:16]
Armas MAASALO (1885-1960)
Tuutulaulu (Lullaby) [4:08]
Richard FALTIN (1835-1918)
Ruusu laaksossa (The rose in the valley) [2:19]
Leevi MADETOJA (1887-1947)
Läksin mina kesäyönä käymään (I went on a summer night), Op.57/1 (1924) [2:25]
Uni kysyy uunin päältä (Thus spake sleep), Op.57/3 (1927) [2:23]
Voi jos ilta joutuisi (O that evening would come), Op.57/2 (1925) [2:20]
Selim PALMGREN (1878-1951)
Tuutulaulu (Lullaby) (1903/06) [2:42]
Kesäilta (Summer evening), Op.59b/1 (1917?) [2:05]
Keinu (The swing) (1908) [2:48]
Poppelit (Poplars) (1930) [3:34]
Yökehrääjä (Spinner in the night) (1908) [2:54]
Suru (Sorrow), Op.16b/1 (1905) [2:07]
Juhannus (Midsummer) (1927?) [2:58]
Kevätsävel (Spring melody) [1:18]
Kevättuuli (Spring wind) (1944) [1:06]
Kevätperhot (Spring butterflies) (1942) [1:19]
Huokaus (Sigh) (1907) [3:00]
Merellä (At sea) (1937?) [1:32]















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