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A Finnish Songbook / Salminen


Release Date: 01/27/2009 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 1135   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Oskar MerikantoJean SibeliusLeevi MadetojaYrjö Kilpinen,   ... 
Performer:  Matti Salminen
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Matti Salminen, now in his mid-sixties, has had an uncommonly successful and long career. His first appearance on Finnish TV took place as early as 1957, when aged twelve, he sang a popular schlager. In his teens he had a group singing jazzy music in four parts with a band. But when he was twenty he auditioned for the chorus of the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki. His breakthrough as a soloist came in 1969, singing Philip in Don Carlos. His international debut came in Bayreuth in 1976. He remains one of the leading basses with a wide repertoire. He is a monumental Wagnerian with a powerful thundering voice but he is also a fine character actor. I especially recall his Philip II in a Don Carlos at the Finnish National Opera some years Read more ago.

In many of the songs on this disc he is also required to scale down to more intimate proportions. This he does to often ravishing effect. It seems however that he has to work harder today to manage this transition and he occasionally has to sacrifice legato to achieve the nuances he wants. This was noticeable in the first song, Merikanto’s beautiful Soi vienosti murheeni soitto. Elsewhere his legato singing is exemplary (try Kilpinen’s Kesäyö), and the more dramatic songs are invested with all his histrionic powers.

The programme gives a fine overview of the riches of the Finnish song literature. To many non-Nordic readers Sibelius may be the only really familiar composer, but Madetoja, Kilpinen and Kuula are certainly among the finest song composers anywhere. They are well worth getting acquainted with. Oskar Merikanto wrote a great number of melodically appealing songs and also attractive romantic piano music. The only composer here I hadn’t encountered before was Martti Turunen. His Sunnuntai is a beautiful idyllic song with a melody that really sticks. Vilho Luolajan-Mikkola’s Häätanhu (Wedding Dance) – also recorded with orchestra by Salminen’s bass colleague Jaakko Ryhänen (Finlandia 0630-16885-2) – is surprisingly gloomy but the first line of Yrjö Jylhä’s poem explains why: ‘Now joy is yours, but sorrow mine’. Generally speaking there is a melancholy atmosphere to many of the songs, which might be explained by the Finnish disposition at large – or the northernmost part of Europe in general. There is no denying the beauty of the songs however and there is some contrasting music. One is the rather well-known Merellä (At Sea) by Merikanto (tr. 2). It is stormy and dramatic and this is reinforced by Kalevi Olli’s grandiloquent orchestral arrangement. This is certainly music that suits Salminen to perfection. On this recording there is a contrasting mid-section in ¾ time that I hadn’t heard before. The text here introduces a love-story set in relief to ‘the sea, its bosom heaving’.

The three Sibelius songs are well known and they are interesting also through the arrangements. Souda, souda sinisorsa is performed in an arrangement by the composer’s son-in-law Jussi Jalas, once music director of the Finnish National Opera. Lastu lainehilla was arranged by the great Finnish bass Kim Borg. Ristilukki (The Song of the Cross-spider) was written with orchestra in the first place as part of the incidental music for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II. All three songs are superbly sung.

Leevi Madetoja is probably best known for his opera The Ostrobothnians, which incidentally will be performed at the Finnish National Opera this spring – I am due to review it on 14 March. He also wrote three fine symphonies and other orchestral works and his songs are wonderful. Yrjö Kilpinen wrote six piano sonatas and some chamber music works but first and foremost he was one of the greatest song composers of the 20th century. With 790 compositions in the genre he even outdoes Schubert. During the 1930s and 1940s he was regarded as the most important Finnish composer, next to Sibelius. Some of his songs were recorded by Gerhard Hüsch in a society edition for HMV. Kilpinen has a very distinctive personal character and these songs are well worth exploration. Toivo Kuula’s life was cut short when he was only 35. He was shot – accidentally or not – during a row in the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War in 1918. Many of his songs are in a minor key and they are often melancholy – as the three songs included here. The three traditional songs, arranged by Kalevi Olli, that conclude the disc, are more outward. Tällaaselle poijalle is a lively march, Tuuli se taivutti koivun larvan is dramatic and Niin kauan mina tramppaan is jolly and positive.

John Storgårds and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra accompany with great finesse. The arrangements are generally attractive and the recorded sound excellent. Admirers of Matti Salminen need not hesitate and those with little knowledge of the Finnish treasury of songs will find a lot here to inspire further listening.

There are, in other words, riches aplenty but do start with Salminen’s disc.

– MusicWeb International (Göran Forsling) Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Songs, Op. 36: no 6, Play Softly, thou Tune of My Mourning by Oskar Merikanto
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
2.
Songs, Op. 47: no 4, At sea by Oskar Merikanto
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
3.
Songs, Op. 24: no 2, The Vallinkorva Song by Oskar Merikanto
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
4.
Swim, duck, swim by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Finland 
5.
Songs (7), Op. 17: no 7, Driftwood by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898; Finland 
6.
King Christian II, Op. 27: Fool's Song of the Spider by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1898 
7.
Lieder, Op. 9: Dark-hued leaves by Leevi Madetoja
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
8.
Lieder, Op. 25: Sometimes weeping in the evening by Leevi Madetoja
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
9.
Songs, Op. 23: no 3, Summer night by Yrjö Kilpinen
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Finland 
10.
Songs (4) of the fells, Op. 54: no 1, The old church by Yrjö Kilpinen
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; Finland 
11.
Songs, Op. 23: no 1, From the shore by Yrjö Kilpinen
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; Finland 
12.
Sunday, Op. 25 no 1 by Martti Johannes Turunen
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1945; Finland 
13.
Wedding Dance by Vilho Luolajan-Mikkola
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; Finland 
14.
Long I gazed into the fire, Op. 2 no 2 by Toivo Kuula
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
15.
Summer night in the churchyard, Op. 6 no 1 by Toivo Kuula
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Finland 
16.
Night by Toivo Kuula
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
17.
For a Boy Like This by Traditional
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
18.
The Wind Bent Down by Traditional
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
19.
I’ll Walk Around This Here Village by Traditional
Performer:  Matti Salminen (Bass)
Conductor:  John Storgårds
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Sound Samples

Merikanto-Albumi II , Op. 60 (arr. for bass and orchestra): Merikanto-Albumi II , Op. 60: No. 3. Soi vienosti murheeni soitto (arr. for bass and orchestra)
4 Songs, Op. 47 (arr. for bass and orchestra): 4 Songs, Op. 47: No. 4. Merella (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Vallinkorvan laulu (Song of Vallinkorva), Op. 24, No. 2 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Souda, souda sinisorsa (Row, row, duck), JS 180: Souda, souda sinisorsa (Row, row, duck) (arr. for bass and orchestra)
7 Songs, Op. 17: No. 7. Lastu lainehilla (arr. for bass and orchestra)
King Kristian II, Op. 27: IV. The Song of the Cross-spider
Yrtit tummat (Dark Herbs), Op. 9, No. 1 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Itkisit joskus illoin (If You'd Sometimes Weep at Evening) (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Songs, Op. 23: No. 3. Kesayo (Summer Night) (arr for bass and orchestra): Songs, Op. 23: No. 3. Summer Night (arr for bass and orchestra)
Tunturilauluja (Songs of the Fells), Vol. 3, Op. 54: No. 1. Vanha kirkko (The Old Church) (arr. for bass and orchestra): Tunturilauluja (Songs of the Fells), Vol. 3, Op. 54: No. 1. Vanna kirkko (The Old Church) (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Songs, Op. 23: No. 1. From the Shores (arr for bass and orchestra): Songs, Op. 23: No. 1. Rannalta (From the Shores) (arr for bass and orchestra)
Sunnuntai (Sunday), Op. 25, No. 1 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Haatanhu (Wedding Dance) (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Tuijotin tulehen kauan (Long gazed into the fire), Op. 2, No. 2 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Kesayo kirkkomaalla (Summer Night in the Churchyard), Op. 6, No. 1 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Yo (Night), Op. 22, No. 3 (arr. for bass and orchestra)
Etelapohjahlaisia Lauluja: No. 1. Tallaaselle poijalle (For a Boy Like This)
Etelapohjahlaisia Lauluja: No. 2. Tuuli se taivutti koivun larvan (The Wind Bent Down)
Etelapohjahlaisia Lauluja: No. 3. Niin kauan mina tramppaan (I'll Walk Around This Here Village)

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