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