Merikanto, Melartin, Sonninen, I & V Hannikainen, Kaski, Pacius, Kilpinen & HŠmŠlŠinen

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COMPOSERS: I & V Hannikainen,Kaski,Kilpinen & Hämäläinen,Melartin,Merikanto,Pacius,Sonninen
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Finnish Songs
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Soile Isokoski (soprano); Marita Viitasalo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 963-2
Soile Isokoski is not only the Nordic vocal flavour of the year, but the latest in an ever-lengthening roll-call of voices, such as those of von Otter, Mattila and Karnéus, to champion Nordic, and specifically Finnish, Golden Age song. This engaging recital explores settings of great Finnish poets such as Eino Leino and VA Koskenniemi by composers such as Merikanto and Kilpinen, and the lesser-known Ilmari and Väinö Hannikainen, and Heino Kaski.

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Merikanto has pride of place: although Isokoski offers eloquent performances of 11 of his 150 songs, it’s the broader wingspan of Mattila’s soprano which does real justice to this most ecstatic and grandiloquent of National Romantics. But Isokoski’s silvery, sentient soprano comes into its own in the songs of Merikanto’s successor, Yrjö Kilpinen. She relishes the idiosyncratic and graphically expressive melodies of songs like ‘From the Shore’ every bit as much as the simplicity of a mournful lyric from the ‘Kanteletar’ folk anthology. And her accompanist Marita Viitasalo thrills to Kilpinen’s ever-varied piano-writing.

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The steady pulse of nature is recreated in the songs of the Hannikainen brothers. Isokoski’s soprano takes wing over broad expanses of water in Kaski’s miniatures, and offers a glimpse into the patriotically archaic in two stage ballads from the author of the Finnish National Anthem, Fredrik Pacius.