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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Complete Piano Trios, Volume 1

Trio in G minor for 2 violins & piano (1883)*
Menuetto in D minor (1885)
Menuetto in F major for 2 violins and piano (1883)*
Andante – Adagio – Allegro maestoso (1885)
Piano Trio in A minor (1884)
Moderato in A minor (1885)
Allegro in C major (1885)
Allegro in D major (1886)
Andantino in A major (1886)
Piano Trio in A minor (1886)
Jaakko Kuusisto (violin), Satu Vänstä (violin)*, Marko Ylönen (cello), Folke Gräsbeck
Rec 5-7 April 2002, Danderyd Gramar School, Sweden
BIS CD-1282 [72.18]


This first release of early piano trio music by Sibelius marks volume 52, no less, of BIS’s complete Sibelius edition. On the grounds that any offering by a major composer is worthy of interest, these charming and sometimes delightful pieces enhance our awareness of one of the greatest and most original masters of all time. That said, anyone exploring this compilation in the hope of uncovering a major and neglected masterpiece is going to be disappointed. For the best that can be said of this music is that it is charming and entertaining.

Not that there is much wrong with being charming and entertaining. At every stage of his career Sibelius produced charming lighter music, and these pieces written as he left his teens and entered his twenties reveal a young composer with a natural technique and inventiveness. You would never guess, however, that you were listening to Sibelius the great symphonist. Try any track at random and the point will be clear. The style is a mixture of two components: neo-classicism and a ‘palm court’ charm.

As a typical example try track 4, the F major Minuet from 1883. All the music dates from the middle years of the 1880s, when Sibelius was very much an apprentice composer. The influence of Vienna was strong, as the biographies tell us. But here the evidence is there in the music, which is pure 18th century entertainment music in style. During the next decade Sibelius would cast off these limitations and have the courage to be his own man.

The playing and recording are both exemplary. The latter is held at a rather high level, and as always from this company the quality and clarity of sound are admirable. The documentation is thorough, too, which itself is particularly helpful because the music is otherwise unknown: these are world premiere recordings. None of the pieces recorded here comes into the ‘masterpiece’ category. But they are delightfully judged and full of vitality. Anyone with a musically enquiring mind will find this disc stimulating and approachable. On the other hand, there is no chance that the listening experience will change your life, since the great composer had not yet emerged.

Terry Barfoot


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