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Robert Plyler
The Post-Journal, May 2007

Songs tend to be much less popular than orchestral music, especially when they are recorded in languages not easily understood by the listener.

While audiences who are equipped with a translation in a printed program or with surtitles on a concert stave can usually enjoy concerts in other languages, it is relatively rare for listeners to warm to someone singing words which are no more than sounds to them and presenting emotions at which they can only guess.

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, who died in 1957, is much respected for his instrumental compositions, especially the nationalistic “Finlandia.” But he also composed hundreds of songs, the majority of which are in Swedish, because Finland has been ruled by Sweden for much of its history and that was the language spoken by the composer’s family in their home.

Naxos has released a first volume of Sibelius’ songs, performed by tenor Hannu Jurmu and piano accompanist Jouni Somero. There are 30 songs on the disc, most lasting between two and three minutes. The majority are in Swedish, with a few in German and even fewer in English.

The singer has a wonderfully expressive voice, with strong technique and rich intonation. I’m sure that the many Swedish-speaking readers, especially those who partake in the Scandinavian choral tradition would enjoy the disc.

For myself, I admire and respect the quality of the recording, but I find it hard to listen for too long. If they had published translations in the album liner, I’m certain I would have felt otherwise.

If you’re interested, it’s on the Naxos label, with catalog number 8.570019. More information is available on the Naxos website:

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