Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47 (1905) [30:23]
The Bard, Op. 64 (1914) [8:08]
The Wood Nymph, Op. 15 (1895) [24:05]
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra/John Storgårds
rec. Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, 19-20 Nov 2008 (concerto); 29 Jan 2010 (Nymph); 18 Mar 2010 (Bard). DDD
Booklet with liner notes in English, German, Finnish
ONDINE ODE 1147-2 [62:57]

Ondine and these artists start off with a considerable edge. The recording technology has produced stunning results in the shape of 24 bit DXD (Digital Extreme Definition). It’s the aural equivalent of high definition TV. Add to this a recording of the Violin Concerto that is a very strong entrant in stakes that are already crowdedly thronged. It jostles its way to near the front rank. The Concerto has been blessed over the years. My own Hall of Fame includes most recently Vilde Frang on EMI, Julian Rachlin on Sony (part of the Maazel cycle), Haendel and Berglund on EMI, Oistrakh with Rozhdestvensky on BMG and many other labels and Jan Damen on Eloquence. Zimmermann gives one of those careful yet spontaneously vibrant readings which I associate with Stokowski on a good day. The reading of this workforce simply holds the attention when its warhorse credentials will tempt many into a sort of synthesised competence. With Zimmermann emphases, slurs and caesurae are in place and such eloquent punctilious attention adds a natural fresh quality. I have always regarded The Bard as a companion to Luonnotar and the Fourth Symphony. Kamu (DG Eloquence) stands at the other pole from Storgårds who locates himself in the mainstream. This reading featuring the harpist Anni Kuusimäki is pristine, sparse and dignified. It conjures a dreamy vision of wandering harpers of yore. There is nothing Gallic or voluptuary about this. Also impressive is the way the work emerges from silence – all works do this but there is something specially poised about this recording. The tonal allure is very impressive. We have long left behind the sort of raw deckle-edged treble for which early CDs were condemned. As for The Wood Nymph it is good to see it building a history on disc. It’s from the same era as the Lemminkainen poems and En Saga. It’s a big, discursive and loosely structured piece with more in common with En Saga than with the Lemminkainen pieces. Its origins can be traced to a poem by Viktor Rydberg which also gave birth to a song and a melodrama by Sibelius. Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony made the premiere recording of this work in 1996 for Bis.

Rob Barnett

A good mix and a very good recording of the concerto.