Riemuitkaamme! is a great recording for folks wanting to venture beyond standard Christmas fare — but not too far beyond. The program features plenty of familiar selections, mixed with modern Finnish choral gems.
Among the familiar are Bach’s “Wachet auf,” Berlioz’s “The Shepherd’s Farewell” and Tchaikovsky’s “Christ, when a Child…” Yet even these sound fresh, as the choir sings them in Finnish.
The unfamiliar works fit in nicely with the overall program. All, though modern, have strong tonal centers.
Included are two short compositions by Sibelius. Works by Leevi Madetoja, Ahti Sonninen, and Armas Maasalo add to the appeal of the collection. These well-crafted choral works have a deceptive simplicity to them. That simplicity makes them immediately accessible.
The release includes a world premiere recording. “Aattolia (Christmas Eve)” by Canadian composer Matthew Whittall. The music features long sustained harmonies. They evoke a sense of time in suspension — and showcase the fine voice control of this choir.
Organ pastorales by Taneli Kuusisto and Arvi Karvonen add variety. Both left me wanting to hear more by these composers.
The Helsinki Chamber Choir has a clean, clear ensemble sound that sparkles like sunlight on snow. Riemuitkaamme! is a welcome addition to my overcrowded classical Christmas collection. And it’s one I’ll be recommending to others this season.
Riemuitkaamme! (Let us Rejoice!)
A Finnish Christmas
Helsinki Chamber Choir; Nils Schweckendiek, conductor
Jan Lehtola, organ