Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews

See latest reviews of other albums...

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2007

We have come to the second volume of Sibelius's songs in this Naxos series, a largely forgotten part of his repertoire on the international stage, though he composed more than a hundred works in the genre. As Naxos appear intent on recording them all, there will be some first performances on disc, including three here. Most of the songs are to Swedish texts, the language the composer spoke from birth, though they are here performed by Finnish artists. Opening with the Finlandia Hymni, which uses the melody form the famous orchestral work, sets the scene for heroic declamation that is to occupy most of the release. There is, however, one charming moment with Koulute (The Road to School) originally intended for children's voices. As I said in reviewing the earlier disc, I do find it strange that Naxos has split up works conveniently gathered under one opus number, as it would have made good sense to group them, and maybe in chronological order. I equally feel that using several different voices was a prior requisite, particularly as the soprano and mezzo voices would have relieved Hanna Jurmu of songs that stress the tenor range, though he does all he can to shade and characterise the music. Reliable backdrop from Jouni Somero and I doubt if we are about to be inundated with alternative releases.

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, June 2007

It might be argued that there is enough already of Sibelius’s oeuvre available. Honestly there is a plethora of recordings, but this collection is still of interest since it includes a number of songs never before recorded. Volume one included several of the most frequently heard songs, mainly those to Swedish texts. volume twocontains few of the great songs; on the other hand Hannu Jurmu here sings in his mother tongue and this seems to liberate his singing.

It is definitely a voice with heroic potential and the opening number on volume 2, the well-known Finlandia-hymni shows him in a favourable light, noble and powerful. Jouni Somero accompanies excellently, as he does throughout the recital. Laulu ristilukista (Fool’s Song of the Spider) from the incidental music for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II (tr. 10) also finds him in splendid vocal shape. The song is among Sibelius’s finest with its wide ranging accompaniment. He sings powerfully in the early Sortunut ääni, originally for male chorus, a song I sang quite frequently during my years as a male chorister. Here, however, he shows a tendency to shout, which happens now and then and mars some of the more dramatic songs. Thus Siltavahti (tr. 8) is far too strained and unsubtle but unquestionably he produces a thrilling final note. Many of the songs were never published during Sibelius’s lifetime and several of them are less than masterpieces, hearty and enthusiastic but in the last resort quite plain. But there are also more inward and poetic songs, like Aamusumussa (In the morning mist) (tr. 3) from 1897 and originally for children’s choir. Kolme sokeaa sisarta (The three blind sisters) (tr. 12) is from the incidental music for Pelleas et Melisande (1905), is simple in an almost Mahlerian way and is simply sung. Koulutie (The road to school) (tr. 17) is another children’s song, composed in 1924. It is folksong like, simple and catchy and Hannu Jurmu sings it beautifully with great warmth. Miss’ on, kussa minun hyväni (tr. 14) should be well-known to most readers from Rakastava for string orchestra. It first saw the light as a setting for male chorus and tenor soloist, which was later arranged as a solo song.

Those who want a representative disc with some of Sibelius’s best songs – and those are mostly settings of Swedish poetry – should look elsewhere. However for a substantial helping of lesser-known songs, sung in Finnish, the present disc could be a suitable proposition. It isn’t spotless but the singing is far better than on the previous volume.

Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group