Madetoja: Songs, Vol. 1

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LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Songs, Vol. 1
PERFORMER: Gabriel Suovanen (baritone); Gustav Djupsjöbacka (piano)
Madetoja composed fewer songs than did Sibelius, with whom he briefly studied, and far, far fewer than his prolific contemporary, Yrjö Kilpinen: there are some 65 in all, the majority to Finnish texts. In this respect he is unlike Sibelius, who in his solo songs was primarily drawn to the lyric poets writing in Swedish. There are even some in Danish (Opp. 44 & 58) including ‘Sang bag Ploven’ (Song at the Plough) to the poem by Ludvig Holstein that Nielsen made famous. (Madetoja’s songs to French texts will presumably follow in the next volume.) The first songs, Op. 2, are among the most naturally lyrical and the first, ‘Since Thou Didst Leave’, is quite Slavonic in colouring. ‘Winter Morning’ and ‘The Starry Sky’ are both haunting and individual. But as the recital proceeds, the limited emotional range and unremittingly strophic formula wear thin, particularly in the folksy Songs of Youth, Op. 20b. In short, while some are of great beauty, none is as inspired as the best Sibelius or as concentrated in feeling or psychological insight as the finest Kilpinen. Gabriel Suovanen is a persuasive baritone, though he rarely gives us much pianissimo, and Gustav Djupsjöbacka offers sensitive support. Robert Layton