Whilst the oppulence of Royal Albert Hall is my preferred venue there are always some great chamber music proms on the programme. Loving Sibelius like I do I was intrigued to find a lunch time concert of Finnish Folk and Baroque Music.I wasn’t aware of the extent of the musical heritage in Finland so it was great to hear some stories right from the Finns themselves! Honouring 100 years of independence the afternoon set out to display the versatility and richness of the folk music. Split into 5 groups there was a mix of instrumental pieces as well as vocal music. Under the title of “From the Kalevala to Kaustinen: Finnish Folk and Baroque music” it was a very entertaining hour.
Already the very first song took us away into the Finnish country side and it was quite a challenge to have to snap back into busy London life after the concert! It equally awakened an interest to do more research into this musically rich country. A good 15 years ago we had a Finnish organ player giving a concert in my home town and I vividly remember his resounding deep voice and him humming along whilst he was practising. It is very clear that the connection to music is something that is literally passed down within the Finnish families. Anu Komsi, the soprano singing, whose relatives are from Kaustinen has deep musical roots ingrained in her. With folk music playing a huge part in everyday life these traditions have carried on through the years.
The musicians were just superb – the aforementioned Anu Komsi, who turns out to be married to Sakari Oramo, was superb. She sung with such ease and it was so clear that she was very much enjoying herself – wearing traditional costume and dancing along to a few of the instrumental pieces – even picking up the violin herself! Kreeta-Maria Kentala on the violin, Andrew Lawrence-King (playing harp, kantele and psaltery), Eero Palviainen on theorbo and guitar and Milla Viljamaa completed the ensemble on stage. With all of them being so passionate about Finnish music the energy between them was infectious. In most countries folk is seen as something for the old folks – this doesn’t seem to be the case at all in Finland – something involving all ages and going very strong. And having some very amusing topics for their songs about foods which are rather amusing!
It was a very informative concert with some thoroughly enjoyable music. There is certainly a lot more to Finnish music than Sibelius….