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Jean SIBELIUS (1865 – 1957)
Nightride and Sunrise, op.55 (1908) [16:38]
Pan and Echo (Tanz–Intermezzo No.3), op.53a (1906) [4:51]
Suite from Belshazzar’s Feast, op.51 (1906) [14:31]
The Dryad, op.45/1 (1910) [5:46]
Tanz–Intermezzo, op.45/2 (1904 rev 1907) [2:51]
Kuolema (Death), op.44 and 62 (1903 and 1911) [19:57]
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen
rec. 29 July-1 August 2007, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand. DDD
NAXOS 8.570763 [64:34]
Experience Classicsonline


I was very impressed with this orchestra’s last Sibelius offering (review review) and on this new disk there is even more to admire and enjoy.

Nightride and Sunrise has long been a favourite work of mine – the galloping forward momentum, with flashes of themes rushing across the musical landscape, the journey we’re taken on. As we approach the sunrise, which is the second half of the work, the music broadens and becomes lighter; with the dawning of a new day the terrors of the night pass. This is truly magnificent stuff. Inkinen and his orchestra convey the ride well, and the relentlessness of the barren landscape through which we are traveling is laid out before us; when dawn breaks there is the most wonderful horn playing, and later, the woodwind figurations are delicate and precise. Towards the end there is the most brilliant climax which Inkinen builds with care and places it perfectly within his concept of the piece as a whole. This is almost as fine a performance as my favourite by the London Symphony an Antal Dorati (EMI Gemini 585 7852) which no collection should be without.

Nothing can really follow Nightride and Sunrise and the poor little Pan and Echo doesn’t stand a chance, which is a shame for it is a lovely piece – one of Sibelius’s many examples of light music: I am sure that many of us made our first acquaintance with this work on an EMI LP of Sibelius’s lighter music played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Charles Groves (now available on EMI Classics Gemini 7243 5 85532 2 2). It’s a winsome little piece, a gorgeous slow opening section giving way to a bacchanalian dance

Belshazzar’s Feast was a play by Hjalmar Procopé, which has sunk without trace. The complete incidental music was recorded by Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra as part of the BIS complete Sibelius series (BIS–CD–735, coupled with the incidental music to Jedermann, op.83 (1916)) but it is the Suite, heard here, which has achieved many recordings since Kajanus’s pioneering 78s made in 1931. The four movements are full of mock eastern promise and are wholly uncharacteristic of their composer, but they are very enjoyable nonetheless. But this incidental music pales beside the superb pieces from Kuolema (Death), a play by Sibelius’s brother–in–law Armas Järnefelt – the complete incidental music can be found on BIS–CD–915 played by the Lahti Symphony under Vänskä, coupled with the incidental music to Karelia (1893). What is interesting about these four pieces is that they were created from the incidental music and have found places in the repertoire – especially the Valse triste, tinged, as it is, with a bitter sweet melancholy. Scene with Cranes is a very dramatic piece, while Canzonetta is an elegiac movement for stings and the Valse romantique is just that. A Finnish waltz? What will they think of next? These last two pieces are more of Sibelius’s huge catalogue of lighter pieces and they are charming.

Between these two sets of theatre music come two more light miniatures. The Dryad is a peculiar little piece for it has big intentions. There’s a strange chromatic figure which keeps re–appearing on strings and winds, some beautiful muted string music, and a big brass dominated climax near the beginning. It’s strangely static for the music seems suspended in mid air, with no real idea of where it is going, but yet it’s a very complete and satisfying miniature. The following Tanz–Intermezzo is another oddity; part suave waltz, part fandango, complete with castanets.

As with Inkinen’s previous Sibelius disk this is very enjoyable and with the orchestra recorded slightly away from the microphones you can turn up the volume and have a wonderful aural experience for the recorded sound is magnificent. I loved every minute of it and this is a real must have which should not be missed at any cost.

Bob Briggs

See also review by Rob Barnett


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