Madetoja: The Ostrobothnians

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LABELS: Finlandia
WORKS: The Ostrobothnians
PERFORMER: Maija Lokka, Maiju Kuusoja, Eero Erkkilä, Hannu Heikkilä, Jorma Hynninen; Finnish National Opera Orchestra & Chorus/Jorma Panula
CATALOGUE NO: 1576-51100-2 ADD (Reissue)
The success of The Ostrobothnians (1923), based on a popular play about the personal tragedies of a farming community resisting repressive local authorities (convenient metaphor for Finland’s struggle for independence from Russia), established Leevi Madetoja as his country’s first notable opera composer. His music lacks the Janácek-like originality and boldness of Aare Merikanto, whose almost exactly contemporary Juha languished unperformed till the early Fifties. Fluent, evocative, deeply-felt, Madetoja’s score manifests a more traditional Nordic Romanticism (some pages are almost Elgarian), richly orchestrated with an attractive vein of folksong influence. The vocal lines vividly articulate that marvellous liquid language. This 1975 reading, with Jorma Hynninen and Maija Lokka sympathetic interpreters of the hero Jussi and his sister, over-highlights the voices but is still very acceptable. Fans of Finnish music need not hesitate. Calum MacDonald