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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Incidental Music

Pelléas et Mélisande suite op. 46 (1904) [29:08]
Karelia Overture (1893) [7:37]
Karelia Suite (1893) [15:41]
King Christian II Suite (1898) [25:36]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Enrique Batiz (Pelléas)
London Symphony Orchestra/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec. London, 1982, 1994. DDD
REGIS RRC1272 [78:14] 
Experience Classicsonline

This is a most atmospheric, generous and inexpensive helping of Sibelius's most instantly engaging incidental music. The recording quality is vivid as you would expect from Brian Culverhouse who licensed the recordings out to Regis. They're really very good as we can hear from On the Sea Shore and The Three Blind Sisters which in its grumblingly predictive way looks all the way forward to the revolutionary music for The Tempest. This is in contrast with the sumptuous Spring in the Park with its Tchaikovskian glances cast in the direction of Valse Triste. The Pastorale and Entr'Acte are cool and blithe, typical also of much of the King Christian II music. How effective is that light woodwind revelry played out over wanly sighing strings -  legato and staccato. Batiz and the Philharmonia are utterly convincing.

The rest of the disc is given over to a rescue of the treasury of tapes made by the often masterly Iranian conductor Loris Tjeknavorian in London in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Karelia Overture and the Karelia Suite are tense and sprightly with the right choice being made in dynamics, in tension and in colour, time after time. In the less commonly heard Overture the LSO trumpets interestingly respond brayingly to Tjeknavorian who might well have been sympathetic to the Slav style of playing as close as he was to the Soviet Union of those times when playing in Teheran. The King Christian II music is even more engaging than that for Pelléas yet it is played far less often. The sweetly smooth Nocturne is followed by the sighing sepia Elégie. The chuckling Musette precedes the fairy glen fanfares and warm Lemminkainen-style blandishments of Serenade. The Ballade inhabits the world of the first two symphonies and is fulsomely recorded here. 

It's a crowded field but we need to hear Tjeknavorian's recordings of Sibelius 2, 4 and 5 - the latter two with the RPO on RCA and the former on the briefly available Chalfont label. 

An atmospheric, generous and inexpensive helping of Sibelius's most instantly engaging incidental music. Vivacious recordings matched with worthwhile liner-notes from James Murray.

There's no shortage of Sibelius on disc these days - it was not always like this. Even in such a crowded corner the present bargain price collection will satisfy immediately and for years to come if you want a single selection of the Finnish composer's music for the theatre.

Rob Barnett




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