Kuula: South Ostrobothnian Suite No. 2;

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COMPOSERS: Kuula
LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Kuula: South Ostrobothnian Suite No. 2; Four songs with orchestra; Concert Suite: Orjan Poika; Impi Ja Pajarin Poika; Merenkylpijäneidot etc
PERFORMER: Susan Gritton (soprano); BBC Concert Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: Dutton CDLX 7272

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Toivo Kuula was a composition pupil of Sibelius, and died young, at 35, in a brawl. Some of the master’s fingerprints are audible, for instance in the icily rippling violins at the start of Merenkylpijäneidot (The Sea-bathing Nymphs), but the same song reveals a sumptuousness of orchestral palette owing more to French influence. Susan Gritton’s performance is operatically charged, and very effective, as is her involving account of the 12-minute song-story Impi Ja Pajarin Poika (The Maiden and the Son of a Boyar).

Though vocal music was ostensibly Kuula’s forte, he also wrote orchestral pieces. The second South Ostrobothnian Suite, brightly decked with Finnish folk melodies, show him already, aged 30, a skilled, colourful orchestrator, especially in the concluding Hiidet Virvoja Viritti (Daemons lighting up the Will-O’-the-Wisp), which has a dash of Rimsky-Korsakov about it. The symphonic legend Orjan Poika (Son of a Slave) is a more sombre composition, and is powerfully shaped here by Martyn Brabbins. Good as the music on this CD is, it’s sad to reflect there would undoubtedly have been better had Kuula lived longer. Terry Blain