Hillevi Martinpelto, Queen's Hall

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The Independent Culture

Lashings of Scandinavian gloom and repressed emotion were the order of the day in this recital. To be fair, there was also lots of love, celebration of nature and fleeting ecstasy. Warming up with three Mozart numbers, including the oblique eroticism of "Dans un bois solitaire", we soon passed on to some fascinating songs by Stenhammar ­ the most striking being the rapturously nostalgic "In the Wood".

Martinpelto has a bright, clear voice with considerable reserves of power and a steely edge to it, eminently suited to the pellucid lines of Grieg's "En Svane", for example, and bursting forth gloriously in the climax of his "En Drom" ­ another celebration of passing human joy amid ever-renewing nature. It's even better suited to the glittering, icy "The diamond on the March snow" and the strange mythical broodings of "Jubal" ­ music born out of death and destruction ­ in a group of songs by Sibelius.

Things thawed out somewhat with the concluding Richard Strauss selection ­ especially the rapt "Morgen", with sensitive introduction and accompaniment from Matti Hirvonen, though ideally, this material needs a warmer-sounding voice. But for the repertoire of her own northern homelands, Hillevi Martinpelto is just about perfect.

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