The Origin Of Fire and Pohjola's Daughter coupled with Violin Concerto
of Glazunov on Remington R-199-191 .
to the site of the Helsinki University Chorus - Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat.
the Helsinki University Chorus went on tour to North America in 1953,
it concertized in more than 30 towns and cities in the US and Canada. In
most places the chorus sang a cappella. But in Cincinnati the program
contained also a composition written for baritone solo, chorus and
Gabor and Laszlo Halasz, through their contacts with the Cincinnati
Symphony Orchestra and conductor Thor Johnson, saw an opportunity
to make recordings of this Finnish wonder of harmony, strength and
authenticity. These characterizations were then and still are the
hallmarks of this excellent ensemble of male voices.
orchestra and conductor taking their bow.
day after the first concert of the Chorus of the Helsinki University
in Cincinnati's Music Hall, music critic Arthur Darack reported
in the Cincinnati Enquirer of November 21, 1953:
Finnish male chorus, 60 in number, produces a brilliant sound,
almost a hard sound, but is uncanny in its response to direction
and in rapier-like thrusting with musical sound.
The bass sounds reverberate, producing an organ-like ground,
and the higher sounds are fused into a unified and exhilarating
tonal mass. In a word, the chorus is terrific."
"The (...) Sibelius "Origin of Fire" for the chorus, solo
and orchestra, is to be recorded this morning and will duly
appear on Remington Records one of these days. As sung and
played yesterday, it should be taken up by Sibelius enthusiasts,
who will find it in the full Sibelius tradition." - Arthur
recordings were made during the stay of the chorus in Cincinnati on
the 20th and 21st of November 1953.
One recording was of the performance of an early composition of Jean
Sibelius entitled The Origin of Fire, the work Arthur Darack
was referring to. It is Op. 23 and not the top of Sibelius's oeuvre.
It was hardly ever performed in the nineteen fifties and even today
there is only one recording of it, conducted by Neëme Järvi.
Origin of Fire is set for baritone, male voices and orchestra.
The text is part of the Finnish epos Kalevala and should
be seen, or better: heard, in the context of the complete epos. Sibelius
was not satisfied with his composition and revised it in 1910. Nevertheless
it represents a very authentic Sibelius. Putting it on the program
must have been a somewhat daring deed at the time.
the stay in Cincinnati also tone poems of Finnish composers Unno
Kalervo Klami (who studied with Ravel) and Leevi Annti Madetoja
(a pupil of Sibelius) were performed by the orchestra.
Through this music, and the solo pieces, the audience came into contact
with the sound of the Finnish language that has by its significant
use of vowels a pure and strong impact on the listener. The soloist
in the performance of "The Origin of Fire" was Sulo Saarits.
recording session of the chorus singing a cappella
was for a second LP. The program consists of various songs written
by several Finnish composers who wrote specifically for male voice
choir, complemented by compositions written by Tomás Luis da Victoria,
and by Luigi Palestrina. The program also contained Georg Frederic
Handel's famous Hallelujah Chorus from The Messiah.
The Handel piece was possibly included for the purpose of giving the
average music lover a reason to by the record. Gabor was very good
at designing strategies for the proliferation of his product.
recording the chorus a cappella and also together
with the Cincinnati Symphony, Robert E. Blake, Don Gabor's recording
engineer, did apply the multiple microphone placement as used for
the MUSIRAMA releases. Four microphones were used.
Remarkable is that he taped the performance in stereo! Imagine
this was in 1953!
1953 was the year of "The Robe", the first motion
picture made in the new format of Cinemascope. And it was the time
of the introduction of Cinerama. These formats had a multiple channel
soundtrack, recorded on special recorders. "What Hollywood can,
we can do too" must have been the idea of Donald Gabor, Laszlo
Halasz and engineer Robert Blake. Although the stereo gramophone record
was not yet launched, many audiophiles were already using two track
/ binaural / stereo tape recorders in those days. As far as is known,
the a capella recordings were never issued on tape.
The tracks of the recordings in Cincinnati were mixed down for the
release of the recording in mono.
the recording of the chorus singing a cappella, the men were
positioned close to the back wall in front of the door at right on
the stage of Cincinnati's Music Hall. The members of the choir had
hung their coats and jackets over the back of the chairs of the musician.
Music stands are shown in the foreground as well. It looks like the
session was sort of improvised, but not necessarily so as there is
no doubt about it that the men were ready to give a good performance
as the Remington disk shows. The positioning right in front of the
backwall gave a more close up and intimate sound if compared to a
position in the middle of the stage or hall, or in an open air recording.
Turunen (1902-1979) conducting the chorus singing a cappella during
the recording session for Remington Records. Left from center in
foreground baritone Sulus Saarits.
photograph taken during the recording session suggests that there
are at least four microphones discernable. That number is correct
as it was mentioned that for the new MUSIRAMA recordings 4 microphones
were used. One microphone is positioned relatively high and close
to the back wall - as the shadow indicates - for capturing the right
section of the choir. One microphone is placed in the left section
of the chorus, relatively close to the wall as well, and just above
head level. A third microphone captures the right section, but is
placed in front of the singers, also slightly above the heads of the
singers, close to conductor Martti Turunen. In front of the soloist
there is one microphone clamped to a short horizontal bar (not easily
discernable in the picture).
These stereo recordings of the Cincinnati Symphony and the Helsinki
University Chorus were made in November 1953 and were issued in mono.
Apart from Emory Cook who recorded sound, Remington was the first
to make stereo recordings of an orchestra. RCA made their first stereo
recording in 1954.
R-199-167: A Recital of The Helsinki University Chorus (Ylioppilaskunnan
Laulajat), conductor Martti Turunen. Soloists: Rafael Sora and Veikko
Tyrvainen. Recorded during the second tour to North America in Cincennati
#1 Finlandia (Sibelius),
#2 Sydämeni Laulu (The Song of My Heart) (Sibelius),
#3 Paan (Haapalainen),
#4 Karjalan Kunnailla (Turunen),
#5 Laululle (Kilpinen),
#6 Tuutulaulu (Palmgren),
#7 Soliseva Vesi (Sonninen),
#8 Kit-kat Kat-kat (Törnudd),
#9 Kotimaani Ompi Suomi (Turunen),
#10 Disciplinae Filius (Klemetti),
#11 Amoris Opulentiam (Klemetti),
#12 O vos Omnes (Tomás Luis da Victoria),
#13. Sanctus (Palestrina),
#14. Halleluja (Hallelujah) Chorus from "The Messiah"
Affelder evaluated this disk in a Sibelius discography in High
Fidelity Magazine of November 1955. He restricted himself to
the two Sibelius works: Finlandia, Op. 113, No. 12 (1 Edition),
and The Song Of My Heart Op. 18, No. 6.
Affelder ended his review with this recommendation:
"Except for a little distortion in the loudest spots, this
is a fine, realistic recorded presentation of a superior male
chorus as it is today has a vast repertory and made many CD-recordings
but I only could discover "Sydämeni Laulu", Turunen's beautiful
"Karjalan Kunailla" and Palmgren's sweet "Tuutulaulu"
(Lullaby) on the Compact Disc recordings.
R-199-191: Helsinki University Chorus with The Cincinnati Symphony
Thor Johnson. Sulo
Saarits, baritone. Sibelius: The Origin of Fire, op. 32; Sibelius:
Pohjola’s Daughter, op. 49. Recorded during the second tour to North
Origin of Fire, Pohjola's Daughter and Songs A Capella released
on Varèse-Sarabande VC 81041 in Stereo.
performances on R-199-191 were coupled with Glazunov's Violin Concerto
performed by André Gabriel - a pseudonymn for violinist Roman
Totenberg - and the
RIAS Symphony conducted by Georg Ludwig
Jochum (brother of conductor Eugen Jochum). The records were released
Origin of Fire, Pohjola's Daughter and two songs a capella - Song
of My Heart, Finlandia - were issued by AV High Fidelity Recorded
Tape in stereo.
Image provided by Philip Chance
See for more info on AV Tape the
Origin of Fire was also performed during the first American tour
in 1938 in Boston and New York with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
under Sergei Koussevitzky (ref. Martti Turunen's article from
1938 on http://www.genealogia.fi).
D. Sigsbee reviewed the A-V Tape Libraries issue (reel-to-reel tape)
of orchestral works and the a capella "Finlandia" and "Song
of my Heart" in Tape Recording Magazine in 1954.
A -V TAPE LIBRARIES, INC. 730 Fifth Ave., New York 19 Concert
Classics, No. 1027
Monaural: 7.5 IPS, Dual Track, 1 reel Binaural: 7.5 IPS, I reel
-Choral and Orchestral Works Helsinki Chorus and Cincinnati
Symphony Orchestra Thor Johnson, Conductor "The Origin
of Fire" Tone poem for Baritone, Male chorus and Orchestra,
Opus 32 -Sulu Saarits, Baritone "Song of My Heart"
(a cappella) " Finlandia" (a cappella) "Pohjola's
Daughter," a Symphonic Fantasy, Opus 49
you don't like Sibelius, you won't like this. If you do like
Sibelius, get it by all means. An intensely interesting recording
of some of his shorter, and lesser known works. Musically, this
is good stuff, performed by people who obviously have great
feeling and respect for the Finnish giant. Both "The Origin
of Fire" and "Pohjola's Daughter" are typical
of the composer's work and the opening bars of the latter, in
the cellos and double -basses, will raise many a goose -bump
among owners of wide -range equipment. A-V has put a gold label
on this recording, and well they might have, as it is worth
its weight in the precious metal.
I heard it on monaural equipment and it sounded excellent. But
the thought of what it must sound like binaurally has caused
me to get out the catalogues. In spite of the fact that there
were only three tapes available for review this issue, the caliber
of all three was such as to convince me that tape is here to
I understand there is a clamor for more of the popular songs
of today and "Pop" music, waltzes, etc. Hack Swain
has been producing tapes in this category (see last two issues)
on the electric organ. I hope the tape companies will react
to this growing demand, and as soon as they do, it will be my
pleasure to review them and pass along any information which
may be of help. As I said in the November-December issue, commercial
tape recordings are not widespread at the moment. The pioneer
companies are increasing their output and new companies are
coming into this field all the time. The public is demanding,
and getting, more realism in home music reproduction the same
thing will apply to the type of music desired; if you, the public,
desire more of the popular music, then the companies will see
that your wishes are granted. If you have any ideas, sugges-
tions or particular music in regard to the tape field let it
be known, to us and /or to the companies. In this way the companies
will be releasing what you, the consumer, want to hear and the
one sure way of their knowing what is wanted is by letting them
Charles D. Sigsbee
stereo-tapes of "The Origin of Fire", "Pohjola's Daughter" and 8 selections
from the original recital recording of R-199-167 were reissued by
Tom Null on Varèse-Sarabande stereo Lp, reference VC 81041.
"Some equalization had to be applied to match the modern RIAA
equalization curve", Tom Null writes on the back of the cover.
The Varèse-Sarabande release shows all too well that the Remington
discs did not fully show the quality of the original tapes made in
1953 by Robert Blake, nor did the Remington discs show the
full impact which the performances must have had on the audience.
The recordings were supervised by Don Gabor and Laszlo Halasz.
drawn by hand (as published in the book about the history of the Helsinki
University Chorus) with the names of cities and dates of the American
Tour in 1953. The tour took place from November 1, 1953 (when they
arrived by plane at Boston Airport), till December 22, 1953. The last
concert was given in New York on December 20, 1953.
Click on the image to view a large map.
the occasion of the visit of the chorus in 1953, a vase was designed
by Kaj Francke and manufactured by the Nuutajarvi-Notsjo company.
Francke was their top designer in the 50's.
vase was recently acquired by Rita Tanguay Bissonnette who also
sent the picture she made of the glass vase set against a colorful
background. The inscription reads University Chorus Helsinki 1953.
Helsinki University Chorus (YL), founded in 1883, is the oldest Finnish-language
choir in Finland. The
chorus made many recordings on CD. If you want to get acquainted with
the expressive and both strong and refined singing of this chorus,
I would recommend the Finlandia CD of Songs for Male Voice Choir by
Jean Sibelius. The CD contains 25 songs and opens with a powerful
Finlandia, followed by the famous Rakastava. The recording sounds
very well because multibit AD-conversion -the magnificent Sony PCM-1610
Digital Audio Processor - and not a low bit converter was used. The
reference number is FACD-205-S.
recently the chorus recorded the "Complete Songs for Male Voice
Choir" by Selim Palmgren. These recordings are especially of
interest to lovers of choral singing and to choruses searching for
new material to extend their repertory.
Rudolf A. Bruil,
page first published in the Fall of 2000.
(Photos of the
chorus courtesy The Helsinki University Chorus, Finland)
In May 2003 YL and
signed an exclusive recording contract.
And on March 29 and April 5, 2008 the YL Male Voice Choir gave concerts
to celebrate its