Erkki Melartin: Traumgesicht - Marjatta - The Blue Pearl
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World prèmiere recordings of three orchestral works by Erkki Melartin (1875-1937), one of the most influential Finnish composers and symphonists of the early 20th century. Traumgesicht is an Impressionistic symphonic poem written in 1910. Later Melartin considered it as one of his most important works. The work lied unperformed for 81 years until Hannu Lintu brought it back to light by conducting it in Helsinki in 2013. Marjatta (1914), ""A Legend from Kalevala"", is based on the Finnish national epic and bears hints to Sibelius Luonnotar - both works were originally written for the same singer. The solo part of the work is here sung by the celebrated soprano Soile Isokoski. Music for the ballet The Blue Pearl, completed in 1930, was one of the last major works written by Melartin and, surprisingly, the first full-length ballet written in Finland. Although the ballet music was popular in its own time the work gradually fell into oblivion. Conductor Hannu Lintu has adapted the music of the ballet into a 8-movement concert suite.
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Beginning with the Traumgesicht (Night Dream, sort of), this tone poem is recognizably Straussian, without the overreach of dissonance, but with varying tempi and mood. It is not highly emotional, in the manner of Verklarte Nacht, but a progression of idyllic and heroic images. One wants to hear more from this composer after the first listening.
Marjatta, a kind of virgin birth parable from Finnish legend, is beautifully sung by Soile Isokoski; the soprano is beginning to show her age, but not to a serious degree (there is, however, a terrible photograph in the booklet). The music is rhapsodic, perhaps slightly Impressionistic, and I was completely spellbound.
The excerpts from the ballet, The Blue Pearl, come from another time; one could easily imagine choreography by Petipa. These excerpts do not really highlight the action of the ballet, which I will not outline, but the pearl is possessed by a sea monster on a South Seas island. The charm is absolutely palpable, if anachronistic.
Hannu Lintu is a superb conductor of these works, and the orchestra is first rate. The recording is excellent. Lintu should consider re-recording the symphonies. If I could only get him to record some of the unknown works of Raitio, I would be endlessly grateful.