It’s like opening a present! This was my first impression of the double album Minä, Paraske. Sinä, Arhippa. [Me Paraske. You Arhippa] released by the runo-singing couple Ilona Korhonen and Taito Hoffrén. The disc cover, ecologically devised from folded paper, is sealed with a relief depicting the performers’ wedding rings, and cracking open the red wax feels all the more significant because of this.
This disc fills a long-standing gap, because unaccompanied solo runo singing has not been recorded much at all, even though these two singers have been performing it not only in Finland but around the world. On the cover, there is a choice of a portrait of Korhonen or Hoffrén by photographer Sami Repo. The booklet text includes an introduction by Professor Heikki Laitinen (unfortunately only in Finnish) expanding on the world of runo singing and the aesthetics of the album.
Korhonen completed an artistically oriented doctorate on the Ingrian runo singer Larin Paraske (1833–1904) and her vocal legacy. Hoffrén is on a similar path with runo singer Arhippa Perttunen (1769–1841) from Dvina Karelia. Both Korhonen and Hoffrén have spent decades immersed in this material, and their profound and personal engagement can be perceived by the listener in the effortlessness of the performance.
The Paraske texts sung by Korhonen are divided into seven narratives where her expressive voice and captivating storytelling ability enchant the listener so thoroughly that after listening to the disc you feel you are familiar with the origin of the kantele, have wept under the burden of ancient sorrows and have an insight into the status of women in village communities in Paraske’s day.
Hoffrén’s half of the double album consists of three runo songs as performed by Arhippa. The longest is the 23-minute Sampo, and the narrative is framed with an introduction and an epilogue. Time stands still when Hoffrén sings, in a true manifestation of the meditative ‘long aesthetic’ of runo singing.
The two discs complement each other, and listening to the double album you notice once again how beautiful and interesting the human voice is – in its simplicity and richness.
ILONA KORHONEN & TAITO HOFFRÉN: Minä, Paraske. Sinä, Arhippa.
Kanteleen Ääniä 2020