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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Night Ride and Sunrise, Op. 55 [16:40]
Pan and Echo, Op. 53a [04:44]
Belshazzar's Feast Suite, Op. 51 (I. Oriental Procession [02:40]; II. Solitude [03:21]; III. Nocturne [04:22]; IV. Khadra's Dance [04:00])
Two Pieces for Orchestra op. 45 (The Dryad, Op. 45, No. 1 [05:40]; Dance-Intermezzo, Op. 45, No. 2 [02:42])
Kuolema (Death) opp. 45, 62 (Valse triste, Op. 44, No. 1 [05:10]; Scene with cranes, Op. 44, No. 2 [06:17]; Canzonetta, Op. 62a [04:10]; Valse romantique, Op. 62b [04:09])
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen
rec. Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand, 29 July-1 August 2007. DDD
NAXOS 8.570763 [64:34]
Experience Classicsonline

This is in general the lesser known Sibelius. It is done with atmosphere and hushed tension. Night Ride is a favourite of mine. It displays so many hallmarks: that relentless yet moulded ostinato, bird song, the romantic expression of the Second Symphony and the ascetic joys of the Sixth’s string textures. It’s such a contrast with the fleet-footed Paavo Järvi on Virgin but a delight to hear every detail limned with such sturdy enchantment. If you want something in between then try Dorati on EMI Gemini.

The Belshazzar's Feast Suite’s Oriental Procession in a similar idiom to Nielsen’s Aladdin music and Delius’s Hassan without the latter’s morbidezza. Solitude ticks trippingly along and melts entrancingly into the tenderness of Nocturne. The final segment (Khadra's Dance) is typically polished theatre music from Sibelius – deeply pleasing, succinct and with a tangy lilt – listen to that woody bassoon. Pan and Echo is a more serious piece which seems to come from the same world as the Third Symphony. The Dryad is a bleached and wan impression with a four-square style more closely related to that of the Fourth Symphony and the eerie pieces in the much later music for The Tempest. While still over-hung by some dread there is a little more in warmth in its companion – the op. 45 Tanz-Intermezzo. This segues smoothly into the one famous piece of Sibelius here: Valse triste – lovingly done. Scene with Cranes is intense but the woodwind voicing of the Cranes seems earth-bound beside Paavo Berglund’s famous version with the Bournemouth Symphony – and yet … and yet … Inkinen draws the most atmospheric playing from the NZSO violins. The last two pieces are pleasingly on-style but plumb no depths.

A nice collection which looks to me as if it might – with a previous Inkinen NZSO disc – form part of a complete cycle of the non-symphonic Sibelius. If so it will complement Naxos’s Iceland Symphony intégrale.

Rob Barnett


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