Kuula, Merikanto, Melartin & Kilpinen

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COMPOSERS: Kuula,Melartin & Kilpinen,Merikanto
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Favourite Finnish Songs
WORKS: Songs by Kuula, Merikanto, Melartin & Kilpinen; Folksongs (arr. Ralf Gothóni)
PERFORMER: Karita Mattila (soprano)Ilmo Ranta (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 892-2
The songs of Oskar Merikanto and Yrjö Kilpinen are taken in with the mother’s milk and the cod-liver oil in Finland, but these popular and irresistible turn-of-the-century works are still little known in Britain. Two recent discs from Jorma Hynninen (Finlandia 1516-50021-2 and 1516-50024-2) have helped to remedy the shortfall, and this new compilation by Karita Mattila should certainly open a few more ears.

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The child in the wonderfully onomatopoeic lullaby, ‘Pai, pai paitaressu’ is rocked ‘for Finland’s glory’: the gentle National-Romanticism of Merikanto’s songs focuses their energy and their melodic beauty. Mattila’s lustrous soprano, now in its prime, rides high on the exuberance of ‘Ma elän’ (I am alive) and thrillingly summons the sun from the depths of winter in ‘Kun päivä paistaa’.

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Her excellent accompanist, Ilmo Ranta, tunes in to the shadow-side of her voice in the darker songs of Toivo Kuula (1883-1918) and makes us wish that more than two songs by the idiosyncratic Kilpinen were included. There is also an unexpected treat in Ralf Gothóni’s robust and imaginative arrangements of five Finnish folksongs where even horses laugh. Hilary Finch