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Toivo Kuula: Tule, armaani
     

Toivo Kuula: Tule, armaani

by Tommi Hakala
 
Toivo Kuula may have only lived 34 years, but he is a giant among composers in Finland, and his exalted reputation is largely based on the quality of his Finnish-language art songs. Outside Finland, where Kuula's name is known at all, the portion of his worklist that speaks for him is his piano, orchestral, and chamber music. All of these genres combined accounts for

Overview

Toivo Kuula may have only lived 34 years, but he is a giant among composers in Finland, and his exalted reputation is largely based on the quality of his Finnish-language art songs. Outside Finland, where Kuula's name is known at all, the portion of his worklist that speaks for him is his piano, orchestral, and chamber music. All of these genres combined accounts for less than half of Kuula's output, as his worklist is dominated by solo song. For most non-Finnish singers, the Finnish language is simply a bridge too far to cross. However, the Finnish Ondine label has stepped into the breach in offering an accessible Kuula song recital with singer Tommi Hakala, Tule, Armaani (Come, My Love) a carefully chosen selection of 19 numbers -- nearly half Kuula's vocal output -- and a booklet containing English translations of the songs and good explanatory notes. Kuula's output for voice is strongly varied; earlier pieces are extroverted, heroic, and almost Wagnerian in style, whereas his mature songs show the influence of French impressionism and have a dark, macabre quality. At times, Kuula's songwriting is reminiscent of Mussorgsky, and perhaps this aspect of Kuula is uppermost in Tommi Hakala's mind when it comes to his interpretation of these songs, as he employs a rough-hewn, dramatic approach that resembles the manner in which great Bulgarian bass Boris Christoff delivered Mussorgsky's songs. Nevertheless, this is a mixed blessing; Hakala's voice is beautiful when he sings quietly, but most un-beautiful when he sings loudly, unfortunately this is the approach employed much of the time here. In some cases, it works; the song "Karjapihassa" (In the Cattleyard) begins quite literally with a cattle call, and a dramatic characterization of the kind Hakala calls into play compels this particular song with the macho force it needs. However, he should reserve his barking and bellowing for such obviously programmatic fare and not for Kuula's love songs -- they are fragile creations, and Hakala comes perilously close to breaking several of them just by virtue of sheer over-the-topness. There are several songs here fully worthy of an international audience -- we'll mention the English language titles only -- "Long Gazed I Into the Fire," "Night on the Moor," "Fate," "Saturday Evening," "The Forest Maid," the strangely jazzy "Epilogue," and several others all stand out. As several of Kuula's songs were written with his second wife, legendary Finnish soprano Alma Silventonen, in mind -- particularly "Come, My Love," Kuula's most popular song in Finland -- perhaps it would have been a better idea to split this program between Hakala and a soprano; Ondine already has an excellent soprano in Monica Groop. However, Hakala has been on an upward trend ever since he won the Singer of the World competition in Cardiff in 2003, and this disc may have been intended to both show off Hakala's talents and to fill the gaping repertory hole for Kuula. Sometimes two heads aren't better than one; and in this case, Hakala scores a total knockout over Toivo Kuula's sensitive creations well before the disc's 19 rounds are up -- a pity. Make that a calamity.

Product Details

Release Date:
03/13/2007
Label:
Ondine
UPC:
0761195108727
catalogNumber:
1087

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Suutelo (The Kiss), for voice & piano, Op. 8/1
  2. Lyö sydän (Beat, My Heart), for voice & piano
  3. Yli kukkien (She Walks on Flowers), for voice & piano
  4. Syystunnelma (Autumn mood), for voice & piano, Op. 2/1
  5. Aamulaulu (Morning Song), for voice & piano, Op. 2/3
  6. Tuijotin tulehen kauan (Long I stared into the Fire), for voice & piano, Op. 2/2
  7. Yö (Night), for voice & piano, Op. 22/3
  8. Yö nummella (Night on the Moor), for voice & piano, Op. 24/4
  9. Ave Maria, for voice & piano, Op. 23/2
  10. Paimenet (The Herdsmen), for voice & piano
  11. Kohtalo (Fate), for voice & piano, Op. 23/4
  12. Lauantai-ilta (Saturday Evening), for voice & piano, Op. 24/1
  13. Karjapihassa (In the Cattleyard), for voice & piano
  14. Kesäyö kirkkomaalla (Summer Night in the Churchyard), for voice & piano, Op. 6/1
  15. Sinipiika (The Forest Maid), for voice & piano, Op. 23/1
  16. Epilogi (Epilogue), for voice & piano, Op. 6/2
  17. Jääkukkia (Ice Flowers), for voice & piano, Op. 24/2
  18. Vanha syyslaulu (Old Autumn Song), for voice & piano, Op. 24/3
  19. Tule armaani (Come, My Love), for voice & piano, Op. 29a/1

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