SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

‘Arctic Scenes’ = Choral music from Lapland; Seitakuoro Chamber Choir/Kadri Joamets – Alba Records

Excellent vocal performances of music you have probably never heard.

Published on September 11, 2012

‘Arctic Scenes’ = Choral music from Lapland; Seitakuoro Chamber Choir/Kadri Joamets [TrackList follows] – Alba Records 5.0 multichannel SACD NCD43, (Distr. by Albany), 47:05 ****:

Lapland is the northernmost region of Finland and is a vast wintery landscaped place of monochromatic beauty that actually serves as home to only about 4% of all Finland’s population.  Culturally, it is home to the Sami people, descendants of ancient northern tribal peoples who spoke their own dialect (Sami) and strive to retain their own identity even after the unification of principalities that occurred in the early twentieth century. Apparently, under the royalist constitution of Finland during the first half of 1918, Lapland became a Grand Principality and part of the inheritance of the Finnish royalty. This area remained a province until the provinces were abolished in 1910.

So, it fascinating and no surprise that the Laplanders have their own native songs and poetry and have produced some composers who are well versed in the Sami culture. This beautiful SACD recording does provide music that, for the most part, sounds “northern” with a language that it is nearly impossible to become immersed in without translations and with a sound that contains open harmonies that evoke modality; even monasticism.

Some of the more attractive works herein are those that speak to the Lapland culture. Selections such as Songs of Lapland by Jukka Kankainen and My Reindeer by Timo Kurki have a bouyant, charming, peasant-like quality to them.

One of the more unusual works is the title piece; the multi sectioned Arctic Scenes by Kullervo Karjlalainen, in which vocal soloists tell a bit of a story about growing up in the area. Based on narrative poetry by Vilho Törmänen, the choral ensemble serves nearly as a narrator against some scenes involving solo tenor, alto and bass. The structure of the work along with the melodic line and harmonic is modern, a bit disjunct and bolstered by some lone flute and cello utterances. This is a strange but compelling work.  All the works herein would not disappoint although I liked the ones that seemed the most “indigenous” the best.

The real star of the this recording, though, is not any individual song or composer but the wonderful performance of the Seitakuoro ensemble under their director, Kadri Joamets. The booklet notes point out that the group has existed since 1963 and nearly disbanded in the mid-1970s due to economic difficulties as well as difficulty in retaining conductors.  The group not merely endured but has won numerous accolades and competitions throughout Europe as recently as 2011, while never relinquishing its Lap heritage and identity. They are a very fine ensemble and this very spacious SACD recording translates very well with an impressive mix of room-wide clarity and, yet, intimacy appropriate to the size of the ensemble.

This is most definitely not a choral disc like most others and all the more attractive for it!

TrackList:

  1. Kulnasadz, My Reindeer
  2. Lappish Girl’s Song

Songs of Lapland:

  1. Spring Morning
  2. Harvest
  3. Birth of the Northern Lights
  4. Let Us Sing a Yoik

Arctic Scenes:

  1. Genealogy
  2. The Landscape of My Childhood
  3. Confession
  4. Afield
  5. From Generation to Generation
  6. Defilee
  7. Blood-Stanching Charm

Feelings of the Fell Traveller:

  1. Song
  2. Fell Spring
  3. Longing for the Land
  4. To the Fell
  5. At the Campfire

19. I Promised to Sing

—Daniel Coombs




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