two sets of ScŤnes Historiques
were compiled and arranged in 1911 and 1912. The movements were
compiled from pieces which started life in 1899 as incidental
music for a pageant for the preservation of the freedom of the
Finnish press which was seen to be at risk from the Russian
presence in Finland and its policies. There was a seventh piece
which Sibelius almost immediately reworked as Finlandia.
two Suites contain much enjoyable music in the lighter
Sibelian vein. A delightfully playful Overture - which,
strangely, contains a slight reference to the bass sonorities
of the 4th Symphony Ė how odd in this context
- kicks off the first Suite. This gives way to a two
part middle movement where, after a dialogue for bassoons, jubilant
brass fanfares and marching music are the order of the day.
Thrilling stuff it is too. Then, to change the mood entirely,
the final movement contains a bolero rhythm and - how often
do you find this in Sibelius? Ė the sound of castanets!
second Suite is rather more serious, and, most interestingly,
the music is peppered with sonorities which will become familiar
in the later 5th Symphony! Again, it starts
with a racy Overture and the second and third pieces contain
a prominent part for the harp Ė so tellingly used in the tone
poem The Bard, op.64 (1913) and the 6th
Symphony, op.104 (1923).
the fact that this is lighter Sibelius, there is a majesty and
grandeur about some of the music, and the extrovert brass writing
incidental music to Adolf Paulís play King Christian II
is charming, hovering between serious and light! Itís very enjoyable
music, easy on the ear with no pretensions to anything other
than accompanying the play and being delightful. The Elegy
for strings will be best known, as it has been recorded separately
before, and it is a deeply felt piece of work. The Musette
is a frolic for clarinet and bassoon. Only in the last movement,
Ballade - which depicts the wrath of the King - does
Sibelius let rip and write a large-scale fast movement full
of incident. It might seem a little out of place by the side
of the other, smaller, movements, but it makes an exhilarating
end to the Suite.
have had in my collection, for some years, the Alexander Gibson
recording of both Suites of ScŤnes Historiques and Berglundís recording of the first and Beechamís of the second Suites.
All these performances treat the music in a much heavier manner
than Inkinen and, on first hearing, I was disappointed with
this new recording because I didnít feel sufficient weight to
the music. After listening to the CD six times I am fully convinced
that this is a magnificent performance into which there has
been invested a lot of thought and preparation. The New Zealand
Symphony Orchestra plays very well indeed, and I must mention
the brass section which acquits itself commendably and makes
a full, rounded, sound, which is always a joy to hear. The whole
orchestra is on top form and, unlike a few of the recent Naxos
CDs I have reviewed recently, the orchestra is placed a short
distance from the microphones so the reverberation of the hall
is heard to splendid effect after loud climaxes.
an addition to the ever growing Sibelius catalogue this is most