Berg, Sibelius, Strauss

COMPOSERS: Berg,Sibelius,Strauss
LABELS: Wigmore Hall Live
ALBUM TITLE: Berg , Sibelius , Strauss
WORKS: Berg: Sieben frühe Lieder; Sibelius: Six Songs; Strauss: Five Lieder; plus encores by Gershwin & Merikanto
PERFORMER: Soile Isokoski (soprano), Marita Viitasalo (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Wigmore Hall Live 0011
Vocal shades of a former Wigmore regular, Elisabeth Söderström, are strikingly evoked at the start of Soile Isokoski’s programme, with two Sibelius songs set in Swedish. The first, ‘Spring is swiftly flying’, demonstrates her light and easy way with the text; the second, ‘A Dragonfly’, offers teasing vocalise in a highly unorthodox setting. Although – again like Söderström – Isokoski never whitens her distinctive vibrato, there’s plenty of darker colour in Sibelius’s invocation to evening, and, in the ballad of the girl who returns from her lover’s tryst, an urgency and a foreboding to inflect even the major-key verses before the mood clouds.

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In Berg’s Seven Early Songs, Isokoski is more robust than poetical, concerned with the real world rather than the mysteries behind it. Familiar Straussian raptures are marred only by the occasional exaggerated open vowels (I suspect no-one is going to complain about the textural alternatives Isokoski provides in the context of a live recital). If the voice smiles here, though, the piano does not, and that’s a problem. Marita Viitasalo makes individual capital out of Sibelius’s idiosyncrasies, but by the end of the recital, Strauss’s ‘Cacilie’ taxes her to the limit and the first encore, ‘Summertime’ is stolidly supported. Never mind; there’s good teamwork between the two Finns and Isokoski fans will not be disappointed. David Nice