Published Friday 19th December 2008
|Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Esa Heikkila - Siita Tuntee Joulun - A Finnish Christmas|
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Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
This is a strange collection. However, before I make any critical comments, I want to stress that the musicianship demonstrated on this CD is first class: the singing by the Laulupuu Choir is nice and bright and the guest spots from saxophonist Jukka Perko, a former member of Dizzy Gillespie's band, are beautifully played. So where's the problem? I suppose I was hoping for something different. With the title 'A Finnish Christmas' I was expecting lots of Sibelius and, er, well - can you name any other Finnish composers? I like world music and I like meeting new names but what we get here are too many American standards, albeit sung in Finnish. Anyone for "Kulkuset"? That's "Jingle Bells" to us. Or how about "Petteri Punakuono"? He has a very shiny nose you know and is, perhaps, Finnish into the bargain. As I said earlier, all are sung tunefully but unless you have a burning desire to hear old favourites sung in a different language there seems little point in this release, at least here in the UK. And the less said about the smooth jazz version of Handel's "Rejoice, O Daughter Of Zion" (or "Riemuitse, Tytar Siionin") the better. It is only about half way through when we finally get to hear some Finnish music that this CD becomes interesting. We do get a piece by Sibelius: "En Etsi Valtaa, Loistoa" and several by the Finnish cousin of our old friend "Traditional". Harri Ahmas (born 1957) is the name that appears most, both as composer and arranger so there's an answer to the question I posed above. We can name two Finnish composers. The CD lasts a generous 80 minutes. Half of it is Finnish versions of standards; too easy listening to be hard going but not material I will return to. The 40 minutes of real Finnish music is well worth a listen.