is an amalgamation of two earlier separately issued Virgin
CDs: CD 1 dating from 1996 - twice issued by Virgin on
VM5 45213-2 and VM5 61847-2. CD2 first appeared in 2002.
These Sibelius works sport a generous number of recordings
in the CD catalogue apart from the lesser known The
Maiden in the Tower
Nightride and Sunrise
is a tone
poem exhibiting energetic writing in a tripping measure.
Perhaps I expected more believable light and shade in orchestral
colour earlier in the piece. That element of romantic tranquillity
is largely missed through the heavy orchestration of the
score, which is no reflection on the interpretation. In
his sunrise, Sibelius had the fire of the formidable atomic
processes that take place on the Sun more in mind than
any increasing sun-drenched warmth.
a nine minute soprano piece set in folk-song idiom. Written,
unusually, as a commission for a Finnish soprano (Aino
Ackté) it was first performed at the Gloucester Festival,
and here demonstrates the versatility and wide register
is a rich score with an elegant structure
based on four Finnish legends. Järvi gets the best
out of his orchestra who respond with agility and memorable
emotional flow. The brass, horns particularly, carry
the energy of the first part of the Suite and do so
with verve. A crisp delicacy of treatment of the second
part - that to me carries more than a hint of Liszt’s Les
- is enchanting and adds to the success
of the performance. I enjoyed the power and fervent
playing of the strings in the fourth part of the Suite.
The Maiden in the Tower
is set to a thin libretto by Rafael Hertzberg. Written for
a charity event, this obscure work made little impact at
its Helsinki first performance. Its slender melodramatic
plot hinges on a young peasant girl, abducted by a Lord’s
Bailiff and imprisoned in the castle tower until an attempt
to rescue her by a Lover takes place. The role of the chorus
(Soldiers and Villagers?) is unclear. Sibelius intended
to revise its structure yet maintain its dark undercurrents,
but never got round to doing so. Consequently, the work
had little exposure following the Helsinki premiere. The
short overture is charming and picturesque and provides
a contrast with the stronger melodramatic themes that follow.
To me, this is an impressive opening that I would have
liked to have heard more of: Sibelius in one of his brightest
moods. But then the clouds gather in the first vocal number.
Plaintive cries for help by the Maiden come across in Kringelborn’s
singing as she soars with effortless energy in minor key.
The other singers and chorus give sterling complementary
performances. For a ‘lover’, the tenor’s pieces are written
far too heavily in the Wagnerian style and do not contrast
sufficiently with the sombre weight of the Chatelaine and
the Bailiff’s roles. Maybe it was here that Sibelius was
considering his intended revision, but I don’t think his
opinions were recorded.
Apart from the advancement
of plot in the vocal numbers, a considerable amount of
incidental music exists in the eight scenes that would
have been synchronized to stage action at the time of performance.
What a pity that the stage directions are missing from
the CD booklet as an extra mental dimension to the experience
of listening could have been added. Likewise, the scenes
(as separate tracks) carry no description in either the
booklet or the CD track descriptors, not even their location.
Pelléas et Mélisande
needs no introduction
and is here presented with clarity and dynamism. There
are places where certain sections of the orchestra are
not always in step with each other, however. In the Pastorale
particular, the bassoon/horn chords tend to be sluggish.
The wind are ideally placed on the sound-stage and the
cellos are particularly warm and rich in timbre. The only
sections that tend to get lost are the violas and second
violins. The Estonian Concert Hall gives a flattering acoustic
that is not lost in this recording.
Compare with review notes
of some of these pieces on the ‘Essential Sibelius’ (BIS)
Since this is a reissue,
a little more effort could have been put into expanding
the short CD notes which appear in English, French and
see also review by Rob