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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Tone Poems
Pohjola’s Daughter, opus 49 (1906) [14:01]
The Oceanides, opus 73 (1914) [10:18]
Tapiola, opus 112 (1926) [18:43]
En Saga, opus 9 (1892) [18:54]
The Bard, opus 64 (1913) [8:07]
Iceland Symphony Orchestra/Petri Sakari
Recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, 19-23 June 2000 DDD
NAXOS 8.555299 [70:04]



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The Finland of Jean Sibelius’s birth was so heavily influenced by Sweden that the composer’s mother tongue was Swedish, and he was considerably less fluent in the native language of his own country. His gifts were not apparent at an early enough age to suggest that he might consider a career in music, and he entered the university in Helsinki as a law student. Intent on being a violinist, it soon became evident that Sibelius’s true music abilities lay in the field of composition. He would abandon his law studies to pursue music in Helsinki, and later in Berlin and Vienna. His prolific output is even more remarkable given that he composed no music whatsoever for the last twenty-five years of his life.

Perhaps no-one other than Richard Strauss was as adept with the tone poem as Sibelius. Gripping, engaging, stirring, often heart-rending, he captured in music like no other composer before or since the sweep of a great tale, the vision of a great storyteller. A brilliant orchestrator, he was able to paint scenes and depict characters via the orchestra that are as vivid as any visual representation could ever be.

We have here a first-rate performance of these magnificent scores. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra is truly world class, and conductor Petri Sakari leads thrilling performances. This is an orchestra with as wide a palette of musical hues as any fine painter’s. Their string tone is lush and rich, winds are clear and articulate, brasses are vibrant and powerful without ever overwhelming the overall texture of the music. Iceland is arguably one of the world’s most educated and cultured societies, with a one hundred per cent literacy rate and one music school for every five thousand of its citizens. This dedication to art is beautifully exemplified in this outstanding orchestra.

Every note of these performances is a thrill and an adventure. Naxos have produced yet another fine feat of engineering, with balances near perfection and rise and fall of the dynamic range right on the money. Keith Anderson’s program notes are superb. Without fail, add this fine disc to your collection.

Kevin Sutton

see also SIBELIUS: 'Finlandia', 'Karelia Suite', Four Legends from the 'Kalevala'. Iceland Symphony Orchestra Petri Sakari. Naxos 8.554265 [73m] DDD.



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