COMPOSERS: Alfven,Grieg,Sibelius and Stenhammar
ALBUM TITLE: I Skogen: Nordic Songs
WORKS: Songs by Alfvén, Grieg, Sibelius and Stenhammar
PERFORMER: Camilla Tilling (soprano), Paul Rivinius (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS 2154 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Camilla Tilling uses her light lyric soprano to trace the echoes and glints of folksong in the melodic shape and harmonic underpinning of many of these songs of the North. Minimal vibrato, and long lines of pure and focused cantabile singing bring high-latitude light to Sibelius’s setting of his beloved poet Runeberg, and give voice to both his far from mute swans in Norden, and those of Grieg and Ibsen in En svane.
For Sibelius and Grieg these are rare examples here of their non German-language songs, and this is a pity. Few quibbles about performance, either that of Tilling or of her excellent accompanist, Paul Rivinius. But, as this sells itself as a progamme of Nordic song, to show so little of Grieg’s Norwegian and Sibelius’s Finnish and Swedish settings (let alone anything from the huge and largely untapped sources of Icelandic song) seems a missed opportunity.
But Tilling irresistibly sells six (of some 100) songs by her still underexplored compatriot Wilhelm Stenhammar. She makes a strong case for his sensuous The Tryst (written eight years before Sibelius’s more erotically charged setting), and catches to perfection the petal-wing movement and drooping chromatic melancholy of Butterfly Orchid. Her final midsummer night’s dream of a performance of Hugo Alfvén’s 1908 The Forest Sleeps makes one long for more from this composer, too. Hilary Finch