Sieben frühe Lieder
Porgy & Bess Summertime
Spring is swiftly flying, Op.13/6
A Dragonfly, Op.17/5
To Evening, Op.17/6
The First Kiss, Op.37/1
The girl came from her lovers tryst, Op.37/5
The Flower of Friendship, Op.57/7
Du meines Herzens Krönelein, Op.21/2
Das Rosenband, Op.36/1
Meinem Kinde, Op.37/3
Soile Isokoski (soprano) & Marita Viitasalo (piano)
Recorded on 23 June 2006 in the Wigmore Hall, London
Reviewed by: John T. Hughes
Reviewed: January 2007
CD No: WIGMORE HALL LIVE
Duration: 54 minutes
For non-British residents I should explain that the short measure of this commendable CD is a result of this Soile Isokoski recital being a BBC lunchtime broadcast, with just under an hour allotted in the schedule. The Gershwin and Merikanto pieces were encores, and neither their words nor information on them are included in the booklet.
Isokoski’s voice has a lovely silvery timbre, with a warm glow in the lower middle range, this latter tone heard to pleasing effect in the opening line of Richard Strauss’s “Du meines Herzens Krönelein”. It lifts easily, smoothly and, to ‘Elysium’, the last word in “Das Rosenband”, skilfully, as it does in the ascent to ‘wogen-blauen’ in “Morgen”. Such moments should be appreciated and relished by anyone who knows and loves the human voice and the art of singing. Isokoski is a musical performer. She makes her mark too in Alban Berg’s “Seven Early Songs”, delivered with intelligence and feeling. The first and third settings, ‘Nacht’ and ‘Die Nachtigall’ respectively, provide good examples of her artistry.
The recital begins, however, with Sibelius, the voice immediately full and firm in “Spring is swiftly flying” (Våren flyktar hastigt). (Sibelius’s settings are usually to Swedish texts, sometimes Finnish.) It opens out even more in “A Dragonfly” (En stända), which is almost operatic in its vocal outpouring, with the piano silent for long stretches. It’s a rather strange song and not recorded all that often (Ritva Auvinen and Karita Mattila are two who have committed it to disc) but it gives Isokoski an opportunity to release a flood of rich sound and to exhibit her clear tone in the melismatic passages. Another infrequently recorded song is ‘The Flower of Friendship’ (Vänskapens blomma), just as successfully rendered. The Sibelius group ends with the dramatic setting of the girl going home after meeting her lover, her hands red, then her cheeks pale. This is an intense song, given a fitting performance by Isokoski and Marita Viitasalo, whose piano part is troubled and threatening. These Sibelius songs are sowell done.
In ‘Summertime’, the quick vibrato is more noticeable, and I should not be surprised if Isokoski emphasized it for effect: it is not out of place. She finishes with the short Merikanto song, announcing it as “I live, I sing, I’m alive”, transmitting the joy of which it tells and closing an audience-appreciated recital. She should sing more songs by this Finnish composer.
On one or two occasions a barely perceptible break slightly disturbs the flow of tone (I mention it in case someone accuses me of not hearing them), and in some of the German songs consonants are occasionally overdone, the worst being on “acht”, the final word in Berg’s ‘Nacht’. Those are minor matters in the context of another enjoyable recital made available on the Wigmore Hall label. Viitasalo, Isokoski’s usual accompanist, combines her artistry with that of her partner to strengthen one’s pleasure, as does the very fine sound of the recording.