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
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.
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.