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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Complete Piano Trios: Volume 2

Piano Trio in D (Korpo) (1887)
Andantino in G minor (1887-8)
Allegretto in A flat (1887-8)
Piano Trio in C (Lovisa) (1888)
Allegro in D minor (1889) (completed Kalevi Aho)
Allegretto in E flat (1891-2) (completed Jaakko Kuusisto)
Alla Marcia in C (1892-5)
Jaakko Kuusisto (violin); Marko Ylönen (cello); Folke Gräsback (piano)
Rec. Danderyd Grammar School, Sweden, April 2002, DDD
BIS-CD-1292 [66:39]

Sibelius’s life of more than ninety years could be divided into three roughly equal periods. The creative genius of the middle period has him gaining recognition as a truly great composer. Unusually in art, and sadly for us, he subsequently became silent for almost three decades and probably destroyed his 8th Symphony. In his first period, which may be considered to have ended by the time he composed the Kullervo symphony (in 1892), he had yet to develop a distinctive voice. Virtually all the music on this disc predates that work and was mostly written during summer holidays for his family to play. If played "blind", it would be unrecognisable as Sibelius or even as Scandinavian. Central Europe would seem nearer the mark, especially in the Korpo trio where he alludes to a Bach fugue; Haydn and Beethoven are noticeable influences. In particular, the section beginning at 9’26" in the slow movement recalls the Moonlight Sonata. This is by far the longest work on the disc at almost 36 minutes. The Lovisa trio also has three movements but lasts just 15 minutes; it is clearly an advance on the earlier Korpo trio – a move towards the concision of later Sibelius. Everything else is in miniature, with the A flat Allegretto occupying all of 46 seconds. All of these works except the Lovisa trio are receiving their première recordings.

This disc, the second and presumably last of a series of Sibelius’s music for piano trio, is beautifully played, recorded and presented. The performers make as much as they can of the music without ever pretending these are masterworks. The sound is intimate and well-balanced. The booklet is excellent and contains authoritative notes by the pianist, Folke Gräsback who is a Sibelius specialist and has apparently given 79 world premières of his music.

In summary, don’t come here looking for recognisable Sibelius. We should nevertheless be grateful to BIS for an interesting insight into his development.

Patrick C Waller

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