This first release of early piano trio music
by Sibelius marks volume 52, no less, of BIS’s complete Sibelius
edition. On the grounds that any offering by a major composer
is worthy of interest, these charming and sometimes delightful
pieces enhance our awareness of one of the greatest and most original
masters of all time. That said, anyone exploring this compilation
in the hope of uncovering a major and neglected masterpiece is
going to be disappointed. For the best that can be said of this
music is that it is charming and entertaining.
Not that there is much wrong with being charming
and entertaining. At every stage of his career Sibelius produced
charming lighter music, and these pieces written as he left his
teens and entered his twenties reveal a young composer with a
natural technique and inventiveness. You would never guess, however,
that you were listening to Sibelius the great symphonist. Try
any track at random and the point will be clear. The style is
a mixture of two components: neo-classicism and a ‘palm court’
As a typical example try track 4, the F major
Minuet from 1883. All the music dates from the middle years of
the 1880s, when Sibelius was very much an apprentice composer.
The influence of Vienna was strong, as the biographies tell us.
But here the evidence is there in the music, which is pure 18th
century entertainment music in style. During the next decade Sibelius
would cast off these limitations and have the courage to be his
The playing and recording are both exemplary.
The latter is held at a rather high level, and as always from
this company the quality and clarity of sound are admirable. The
documentation is thorough, too, which itself is particularly helpful
because the music is otherwise unknown: these are world premiere
recordings. None of the pieces recorded here comes into the ‘masterpiece’
category. But they are delightfully judged and full of vitality.
Anyone with a musically enquiring mind will find this disc stimulating
and approachable. On the other hand, there is no chance that the
listening experience will change your life, since the great composer
had not yet emerged.