SIBELIUS (1865-1957) CD1 [73:32] Nightride and Sunrise Op. 55 (1907) [14:41] Luonnotar Op. 70 (1913) [9:18]
Legends (Lemminkäinen Suite) Op. 22 (I. Lemminkäinen
and the Maidens of the Island [17:08]; II. Swan
of Tuonela [9:49]; III. Lemminkäinen in Tuonela [15:54];
IV. Lemminkäinen's Return [6:32]) (1895-6) [49:23]
Kringelborn (soprano); Elemér Lavotha (cello);
Jesper Harryson (cor anglais)
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Paavo Järvi CD2 [67:38] Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the tower):
one act in overture and eight scenes (1895-6) [36:39] Pelléas et Mélisande- incidental music Op.
46 (At the Castle Gate [2:47]; Mélisande [3:49]; At the Sea
[1:59]; By a spring in the park [2:12]; The three blind sisters
[2:08]; Pastorale [1:52]; Mélisande at the spinning wheel
[2:03]; Entr'acte [2:53]; The death of Mélisande [6:01])
(1905) [25:48] Valse triste Op. 44 No. 1 (1903) [4:47] Solveig Kringelborn
(soprano) - Maiden; Lars-Erik Jonsson (tenor) - Lover; Lilli
Paasikivi (mezzo) - Chatelaine; Garry
Magee (baritone) - Bailiff; Ellerhein Girls’ Choir; Estonian
National Male Choir; Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo
rec. CD1: Konserthus, Stockholm, Feb 1996; CD2: Estonia Concert
Hall, Tallin, March 2001; originally released Virgin Classics:
CD 1: VC5452132, 1996; CD 2: VC 5454932, 2002. VIRGIN CLASSICS 5220552 [73:32
the last two decades Virgin Classics pinned their Sibelius
hopes on Paavo Järvi (b. 1962, Tallinn). They issued a pair
of discs in each decade. The first, from 1996, is the same
as CD 1 in this set; the second, in 1997, featured Kullervo (VC5452922
reissued as VC3913632).
The Lemminkainen disc has been bargain-reissued previously
and before that in a rare and now dizzyingly high priced
double boxed set with Järvi’s Kullervo. In 2002 came
a coupling identical to CD2 followed in 2003 by the cantatas
5455892). Since then the flow
has dried up. I keep wondering whether Virgin will surprise
collectors by inviting Järvi back to Stockholm or Tallinn
to record The Oceanides, The Bard, Pohjola’s
Daughter, En Saga and Tapiola. For now
he is very much a house conductor for Telarc. To date he
has steered clear of a cycle of the symphonies although he
did record the Second with Tubin 5 for Telarc.
Speaking of which his discography reveals an admirable adherence
to composers from the Baltic and Scandinavia: Stenhammar
(BIS, Virgin), Sumera (BIS), Nystroem (BIS), Tüür (BIS,
EMI) and Tubin (Telarc).
launches Nightride and Sunrise with a quicker
than usual pace. Even so the Stockholm Phil remain surefooted
and are they tested! It never collapses into a gabble.
The bipartite structure is accentuated by the contrast provided
by a lovingly caressed slow-motion Sunrise. An exciting
reading then but one of exhilarating extremes. The Nightride more
than usually recalls the inspirational trigger which was
a train journey not a nocturnal canter. In Järvi's company
this inventive tone poem could link quite happily with two
other train-inspired pieces: Honegger's Pacific 231 and
the scherzo of the Moeran Symphony. This is a version to
return to and an alternative to Horst Stein (Decca) and more
recently Vänskä (BIS).
Not to be forgotten among the welter of Sibelius releases.
Luonnotar has the spareness and inventive
tension of The Bard and the
Fourth Symphony. It's a score that rejoices in understatement
yet contrasts this with the volatile conflagration of an
operatic scena. Its ruthlessly testing demands are adroitly
and stylishly met by Kringelborn with élan, damsel freshness
and coruscating flamboyance. Place this in the same company
as Helen Juntunen (Vänskä, BIS)
Valjakka (Berglund, EMI), Isokoski (Ondine) and Häggänder
(Bis) rather than the more florid contralto-ish qualities
of Phyllis Bryn-Julson for Bernstein (Sony-CBS),
Gwyneth Jones for Dorati (EMI)
or Soderstrom (afflicted with a debilitating wobble) for
The leaflet does not provide the words or translation.
is followed by a good middle-of-the-road Lemminkainen
Suite. It attains better than good in that Cinderella
work, Lemminkainen in Tuonela which in this reading
has never registered so strongly. It receives a very romantic
reading from Järvi yet does not short-change you in terms
of panic and oppressive catastrophic atmosphere. It's possibly
the finest recorded performance I have heard and it took
me aback. There's a suitably meditative Swan and a
rasping Lemminkainen's Return which is taken mainstream-fast
rather than at the hell-for-leather rate at which Beecham
takes it. The first Legend is effective and well shaped -
perhaps a shade more objective than romantic. Of the competition
the leader in this field is Ormandy on EMI
Classics and also - when it is transferred to CD – the
same conductor’s 1950s mono version. But then Ormandy is
a stunning Sibelian. Also let's not forget Stein and Vänskä.
Less impressive for me is the recentish 1950s Jensen (Eloquence).
to the second
CD we change locale to Tallinn and orchestra to the Estonian
National. This is Jungfrun i tornet's second
recording - the first being the clear but by comparison slightly
enclosed recording on Bis. The Bis is not however lightly
to be dismissed. It was the first recording of the work and
makes a very strong case with the classic Hynninen darker
and huskier toned than the admirable but different sound-signature
of Magee. Kringelborn is excellent and again younger-sounding
than Häggänder. The prelude says it all with its intimate
and nuanced sound, intrinsic vitality and Straussian headiness.
Järvi fils elicits more wit than Järvi père for
Bis. Rather as with his Lemminkainen in Tuonela Järvi fils makes
this piece really sing. The music constantly intrigues and
engages the listener. It's not top drawer Sibelius but it's
not far off - just lend an ear to the rustling and tense
start of scene 3 which is redolent of Karelian bustle and
nocturnal adventure. The timings are little different: Paavo
- 36:39; 35:15 - Neeme.
maidens in towers to Pélléas et Mélisande is
not a large step. We are treated by Järvi to a potent At
the Castle Gate and an understated Melisande with
Tonis Traksmann's nicely bleached cor anglais. By
the Seashore is less oleaginously threatening than Stokowski
in his recently issued recording with the Helsinki City Orchestra
(Guild, 1953 concert). The eerie atmosphere of Mélisande
at the spinning wheel is well communicated. By a spring, Entr'acte and Pastorale are
cool, lissom and suitably insouciant although the Entr'acte is
pushed a little too hard for comfort. The Death of Mélisande is
touching and autumn cool in its stately auburn finery. From
this mood it is a small step to the wan endearment and shared
confidences of Valse Triste which is again
works are all superbly recorded in lively yet warm acoustics
and apart from lacking the last gramme of sable weight in
the strings the orchestras do Järvi and Sibelius handsomely.
and far from faceless readings in well rendered engineering.
If this grouping of works appeals then go for it. Probably
the best Lemminkainen in Tuonela and the preferred
version of the opera.
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