Grieg, Sibelius

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Grieg,Sibelius
LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Karita Mattila (soprano); CBSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-80243-2
The louring sky and seascape of Karita Mattila’s new CD and its first song, Sibelius’s ‘Autumn Evening’, give a clear indication of what’s to come. This is a recital of Grieg and Sibelius at their most darkly Nordic, with much emphasis on the transience of life and the loneliness of humanity in a universe of long, aching horizons. Except, that is, for one song: Grieg’s ‘Fra Monte Pincio’, a northerner’s exuberant acclamation of the South which sees Mattila hymning the panorama of Rome in refulgent voice, and Sakari Oramo’s British orchestra capturing wonderfully the dancing heart of the eternal city. When Mattila turns to Grieg’s Peer Gynt songs, she lacks the touching vulnerability of a Kringelborn, the haunting melancholy of a von Otter, the heart-rending awe of a Flagstad. But memories of Mattila’s Lohengrin Elsa are irresistible in ‘A Swan’, and her ‘Spring’ is magnificent. This great Finnish soprano focuses, strangely perhaps, on Sibelius’s Swedish-language songs, releasing what Vaughan Williams called the ‘clear water of Sibelius’s art’ in the Runeberg settings, so exquisitely accompanied by the CBSO. Again – with one exception. Mattila’s Luonnotar, over the delicate wing-beat of the strings, firmly and fearlessly carves out the Kalevala metre of this beautiful Finnish tale of the sky-maiden’s descent to earth, and the creation of the sky and stars. Hilary Finch