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Madetoja: Juha / Jalas, Hynninen, Lokka, Erkkila

Release Date: 01/07/2009 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: ODE714   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Leevi Madetoja
Performer:  Maija LokkaJorma HynninenKai AirinenEero Erkkilä,   ... 
Conductor:  Jussi Jalas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony OrchestraFinnish Radio Youth Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 39 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Although Madetoja never apes Sibelius's manner, now and again one gets a hint of what a mature Sibelian opera might have sounded like.

If Juhani Aho's tale of misplaced love leading to tragedy was a landmark for the Finnish novel, its operatic potential has proved scarcely less and was spotted early by the singer Aino Ackte. She created a libretto which was offered first to Sibelius (he temporized for a couple of years before finally declining), then to Aarre Merikanto who completed his setting, one of the great operas of the century, in 1921 (now recorded by Finlandia). Merikanto's style was too radical for Finland in the 1920s and his opera was not staged until 1963. Ackte eventually took her libretto back and offered
Read more it to Leevi Madetoja, who duly completed his version in 1934. Yet even the most cursory glance at the texts as printed in the booklets accompanying the Merikanto and Madetoja sets reveals that the librettos are utterly different. There are concurrences, but consistent only with both librettos having been derived from a common source. Even the cast lists vary. Madetoja radically simplified the action, concentrating on the three principals (Juha, his errant wife, Marja, and the itinerant Karelian pedlar, Shemeikka). In doing so many of the subtler motivations present in Merikanto's score were lost, most crucially at the climax with the role of Shemeikka in Juha's discovery that Marja had left him of her own accord. What saves Madetoja's version is the music.

If Merikanto's opera now seems the more impressive achievement that is no reflection on Madetoja's, which is as finely conceived as his earlier The Ostrobothnians (see my review in August's issue) and hugely enjoyable. Although Madetoja never apes Sibelius's manner, now and again one gets a hint of what a mature Sibelian opera might have sounded like. With so natural a talent for opera it is a shame that Madetoja completed only two; Ondine and Finlandia are to be praised in making both available. The two acts of Juha are divided one per disc, although at 58 and 41 minutes respectively the second is somewhat short measure. Given that this is not a new recording a suitable coupling could have been found in one of the suites from his ballet Okon Fuoko or even The Ostrobothnians. This is my only quibble about this set; the performance, once again built around the peerless Jorma Hynninen, is splendid. Even if one has the Merikanto Juha, Madetoja's is still well worth investigating on its own merits, let alone as an alternative treatment.

-- Gramophone [11/1992]
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Works on This Recording

Juha, Op 74 by Leevi Madetoja
Performer:  Maija Lokka (Soprano), Jorma Hynninen (Baritone), Kai Airinen (Tenor),
Eero Erkkilä (Tenor), Anita Välkki (Alto), Margareta Haverinen (Soprano),
Tapani Valtasaari (Bass), Maaria Metsomäki (Soprano), Merja Wirkkala (Soprano),
Kristina Haartti (Alto), Kalevi Olli (Bass)
Conductor:  Jussi Jalas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Finnish Radio Youth Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Finland 
Date of Recording: 12/1977 
Venue:  House of Culture, Helsinki, Finland 
Length: 98 Minutes 59 Secs. 
Language: Finnish 

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