> Jean Sibelius - Works for String Orchestra [TB]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Works for String Orchestra

Ett ensamt skidspör, for reciter, strings and harp
Grevinnans konterfej, for reciter and strings
Incidental music: Rodlan, Opus 8
Andante Festivo
Rakastava, Opus 14
Romance, Opus 42
Suite Champêtre Opus 98b
Suite for violin and strings, Opus 114
Lilga Kovanku, Matti Lehtinen (reciters)
Jari Valo (violin)
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Juha Kangas
Rec September 1993, Kaustinen Church, Finland
WARNER APEX 09274 06072 (76.23)


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Recorded by Finlandia and first issued in 1993, this enterprising collection of smaller scale and lesser known pieces by Sibelius is notable above all for a spectacularly fine recording. The ambience of the Kaustinen Church is just right for string music, and since Sibelius always writes so wonderfully for strings, the sonic experience of this reissue is a special pleasure.

There is some marvellous music here, very well played. Best of all is the three-movement Suite: Rakastava (The Lover). This is especially atmospheric, and full of subtleties of harmony, texture and scoring. The playing is top class, and Juha Kangas directs the ensemble with due care and attention.

These standards are approached on all the other pieces gathered on the programme. Particularly in the pleasing Suite Champêtre, an example of the composer's talent in writing lighter music. There are also several rarities, and it is always worth exploring the byways of the outputs of the great composers. While not all this music ranks in the masterpiece class, it is all beautifully crafted and has many imaginative touches.

The insert booklet is poorly designed, for although the notes are informative they are printed in very small type and tightly packed. At the same time the back page of the booklet is left blank. Why?

There are two items which derive from the composer's interest in melodrama, with recitation combined with music. Neither is well known, but since the performances are in Finnish and there is no translation, they make very little sense to an international audience. This is an interesting issue, containing some splendid music, though not everything comes from Sibelius's top drawer.

Terry Barfoot

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