the most comprehensive single CD collection of Sibelius's
music for violin and orchestra. That said, it is not complete
and given the capacity of the CD there is no way a single
CD could be.
is taken by a different set of artists with the recordings
assembled from the riches of the Finlandia storeroom - when will they
reissue the Klami Psalmus? The Two Pieces for
violin and orchestra (Cantique and Devotion - Laetare
anima mea) are not included. As the note-writer says,
there is some logic in their exclusion as they were written
for cello and orchestra originally - nice to hear them in
that form at some stage. This wish has now been fulfilled
on BIS-CD-1485 (see review). You
can hear their violin avatar on Ralph Holmes’ collection
if you can find this long deleted Koch CD. They are Cinderella
works having also been excluded from the Accardo and Kang
collections. By way of valuable compensation we get the very
rare Suite in their place. The choice was a good one as the
Suite has some creative, melodic and memorably imaginative
writing; something which I cannot say for the Two Pieces.
While the Concerto has been multiply recorded and there have
been several versions of the Serenades and Humoresques this
is the only version of the Suite in D minor.
there. The Suite is in three movements. It is the
only work here to be scored for solo and string orchestra.
Its gentle intent is proclaimed by the pastoral movement
titles: Country Scenery; Evening in Spring; In
the Summer. These are unassumingly warm mezzotints with
a gentle inclination. They share a temperature with the Humoresques
rather than with the discursive Serenades. Little echoes
of other works (often written later) do intrude. After the
first two movements in which you can imagine a blend of Rakastava, The
Lark Ascending and Finzi's Introit comes a perpetuum
mobile flying along like an ingratiating wasp and shadowing
the velocity of the Op. 87/2 Humoresque. The whole
suite plays less than eight minutes. It was written in 1929
- his last opus numbered work - but do not expect Tapiola.
It was first performed in 1990.
For record collectors the Humoresques existed
for many years in a lone recording by Aaron Rosand with the
South-West German Radio Orchestra/Tibor Szöke - now available
as part of Voxbox CDX 5116. Rosand remains a major reference
version and I urge you to hear his version. However the Vox
coupling of various concerto warhorses lacks the composer-centred
logic of the present disc. Kavakos's note production, especially
high above the clef, is not as clean as Rosand’s. To compensate,
the recording quality is nothing short of superb and the
thoughtful deliberation that goes into Humoresques impresses
even this reading does sound leisurely beside Rosand and
Szoke's pulse-racing tempo. This is perhaps pushed a bridge
too far in Humoresque 6 where the piece falters to a halt
at 1.32. Both Rosand and Kavakos find delicacy in these works
which, by a shading, outface alternatives from Dong Suk Kang
(Bis), Mutter with Previn (DG 2894478952) and Accardo (Philips).
Oistrakh recorded the Op. 87 Humoresques but never
got to do the Op. 89 foursome. There is also an even older
recording from the 1950s by Anja Ignatius. As far as I know
Ralph Holmes - with Vernon Handley and one of the other Berlin
orchestras - recording on Koch Schwann is no longer available.
Kavakos's version is one to savour; he lovingly relishes
every detail. If you want a winged mercury version then try
Kang, Mutter or Rosand.
The two Serenades are
major pieces written with ambitious intent. They are not
dramatic aside from the odd climactic episode (No. 1 at 2.34
- strangely Elgarian). In the First Serenade there is a descending ‘grumbling’ passage
that links with the Fourth Symphony at 4.00; nothing brutal
or overstated. The Second Serenade is a fantasy of the shadows.
This is a lovely version which I recommend very highly. Both
are helped along by Kuusisto's Oistrakh-style tone and delivery.
Miriam Fried's range from
a whispered glistening line to hoarsely projected tension
works well in the Violin Concerto. Her tonal production
is steady and pure. Her articulation under the pressure of
Sibelius's acrobatics is not, however, in the leagues of
Oistrakh (BMG-Melodiya), Julian Rachlin (Sony) or Haendel
everything else here the sound picture is natural even if
there is the usual discreet boost to the solo instrument.
Kamu is no tyro in Sibelius - witness his ClassicO of No.
7 and his very strong DG recordings of Symphonies 1, 3 and
the Lemminkainen Legends, all with the Helsinki forces
as here. I rather wish Kamu, a Karajan protégé, would give
us a complete Sibelius cycle but this now seems unlikely.
Kamu here accompanies with flexibility and caring attention
to dynamic variety. Overall this is good rather than Hall
of Fame material.
is one of the jewels of the Apex catalogue. Notes are brief
but much better than adequate. Musical values are high and
even seasoned Sibelians will want this one given its generously
timed and spirited coverage from predominantly Finnish artists.
All for super-budget price.
see also review by Terry Barfoot