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Sibelius: Songs - Jorma Hynninen

Sibelius: Songs - Jorma Hynninen

Fuga  FUGA-9264

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Jean Sibelius: Songs, Illalle - To Evening

Jorma Hynninen (baritone)
Laura Hynninen (harp)
Marko Ylönen (cello)
Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ)

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Recording
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A true 5.0-multichannel recording, editing and mastering: Mika Koivusalo
SACD mastering: DER/Esa Santonen
Tracks
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1. Säv, säv, susa Op. 36 No. 4
2. Vänskapens blomma Op. 57 No. 7
3. Demanten på marssnön Op. 36 No. 6
4. Svarta rosor Op. 36 No. 1
5. Den första kyssen Op. 37 No. 1
6. Lastu lainehilla Op. 17 No. 7
7. Hymni Thaisille
8. Kolme sokeaa sisarta Op. 46 No. 4
9. Kom nu hit, död Op. 60 No. 1
10. Hållilå, uti storm och i regn Op. 60 No. 2
11. På verandan vid havet Op. 38 No. 2
12. Serenad
13. Soi kiitokseksi Luojan Op. 23 No. 6a
14. Cantique: Laetare anima mea Op. 77 No. 1
15. Devotion: Ab imo pectore Op. 77 No. 2
16. Längtan heter min arvedel Op. 86 No. 2
17. Illalle Op. 17 No. 6
18. Laulu ristilukista Op. 27 No. 4
Reviews (1)
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Review by John Miller - September 21, 2008

Fuga is a Finnish company which is new to me, and I am pleased to make acquaintance with their interesting catalogue, which includes several SACDs. Here is a recital of Sibelius songs, welcome enough in itself, but rather different to the usual offerings.

Jorma Hynninen is of course well-known internationally as one of the great baritones. He is also renowned for his advocacy and interpretation of the music of Sibelius. Song writing was a major preoccupation for Sibelius throughout his working life; he composed over one hundred of them, mainly in Swedish (his native language). Meant for the domestic market, they mainly had piano accompaniments, sometimes with other instruments, including the harp and 'cello. The often quoted view that these piano accompaniments are clumsy and unidiomatic misses the point that the writing is not for solo piano, but for songs which were conceived orchestrally, and the textures of the accompaniments express that wonderfully. On the present recording, the accompaniments are taken to the organ, an instrument familiar to Sibelius. At first I was a little doubtful about this, fearing a "churchy" sound (especially since the recording took place in a church). However, the organ accompaniments, by the eminent Finnish organist Kalevi Kiviniemi (a frequent companion of Hynninen in recitals), are very successful. The discreet and apt organ registrations contribute the orchestral colours, and bring out the deep pedal notes which are a crucial feature of Sibelius' sound-world (there is plenty of very deep bass on this recording).

Five of the songs are also accompanied by the silvery harp-playing of Laura Hynninen (something which may well have happened in some domestic performances), with the organ mainly supplying sustained pedal notes. This gives a delightful sparkling effect to "The Diamonds on the March Snow", one of the most popular songs in the programme. Marko Ylönen's soulful 'cello playing graces "Driftwood" (Op. 17 no. 7). The two Op. 77 pieces were originally intended for organ, harp and 'cello, although Sibelius finally published them for 'cello and orchestra - here they are performed in their intended form. As purely instrumental works, they add colour and variety to an already richly varied programme. I didn't for a moment miss the full orchestral versions which Sibelius made of some of these songs.

Hynninen is in superb voice, and as usual brings out all the drama which Sibelius manages to pack into the short songs, the longest lasting only five minutes. The recording (evidently PCM) exploits the wonderful warm reverberant space of the Leppävirta Church beautifully. The organ is some distance behind Hynninen and his instrumentalists, and the glamorous church acoustic enhances the singer's commanding climaxes, which resound thrillingly. In 5.0 surround one can clearly locate the reflections from the side and rear of the church, and the experience is fully immersive. Despite the resonance, however, every word sung by Hynninen is perfectly clear (as are the harp and the cello), and his soaring crescendos ring out impressively into the body of the church. An exemplary recording, which seems to have placed the fewest microphones in the sweet spots and then left well alone.

Presentation of the insert notes is very good, they are spaciously laid out in Finnish with English and are well illustrated, with helpful notes about the music, although there is some reticence in detailing who was responsible for the arrangements of the piano accompaniments. Sadly, however, there are no texts. Perhaps Fuga were taking Sibelius at his word when he said "My songs can also be sung without words. They are not so dependent on words as the songs of many other composers". Indeed the recital does give great pleasure without the texts, but some listeners might like to go deeper, and Fuga could have offered a download of the texts on their website.

Strongly recommended as a thrilling and somewhat unusual selection of Sibelius' songs, including many beloved favourites and some less familiar works. Performed by distinguished musicians with fire and commitment aplenty in a stunning recording venue. This disc will never be far from my player.

Copyright © 2008 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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