WORKS: Songs, Vol. 2
PERFORMER: Helena Juntunen (soprano)Gustav Djupsjöbacka (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 995-2
Ondine’s first volume of Madetoja songs, reviewed last October, was entrusted to Gabriel Suovanen. This newcomer introduces Helena Juntunen, still in her mid-twenties, again with Gustav Djupsjöbacka as the exemplary accompanist. She may be familiar to some readers from her appearance in Mikko Heiniö’s opera The Knight and the Dragon on BIS. Again all the songs are to Finnish texts, apart from the fine setting of Verlaine, the ‘Romance sans paroles’, and three settings of Danish texts. They are often of the utmost simplicity as in, say, ‘Jää hyvästi’ (Farewell) and the touching Lullaby, Op. 16/3. Most are short and invariably of high quality. ‘Talvikuutamolla’ (By Winter Moonlight) has a strong and haunting atmosphere, and it’s a song to which you will return, as I have, more than once. There are some Gallic touches: ‘Hymyi Hypnos’ (Hypnos Smiled) inhabits much the same world as early Debussy and there is even a superficial reminder of Duparc in the Holstein setting ‘The Golden-White Light of Heaven’. Although Madetoja’s songs do not match those of Sibelius or Kilpinen, his writing is obviously the product of a cultured mind and a refined imagination.
Generally speaking, I found this more rewarding than the earlier disc, less limited in range and more distinctive in character. The songs are well served by Juntunen and her partner, who plays with great sensitivity and subtlety of keyboard colour. Robert Layton