Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Karelia Suite, Op. 11 (1893) [15:26]
Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22 (I Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island [15:24]; II Lemminkäinen in Tuonela [15:05]; III The Swan of Tuonela [8:23]
7 IV Lemminkäinen’s Return [6:08]) (1893-95) [45:10]
The Bard, Op. 64 (1913) [6:53]; En Saga, Op. 9 (1892 rev 1901) [18:26]
Helsinki Radio Symphony Orchestra/Okko Kamu
The Tempest: Overture, Op. 109 No. 1 (1926) [5:54]; The Oceanides, Op. 73 (1914) [8:39]; Nightride and Sunrise, Op. 55 (1907) [13:29]
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Eugen Jochum
rec. Concert Hall, Helsinki, Finland, October 1972 (The Bard, En Saga), October 1975 (Karelia Suite, Four Legends); Residenz, Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, November 1955 (The Tempest, The Oceanides, Nightride and Sunrise). ADD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON ELOQUENCE 480 3297 [61:06 + 54:00]
Here we have prime analogue recordings from Jochum in the 1950s and Kamu in the 1970s. The first CD is an exact read-across of DGG LP 2530 656 - quite generously filled for vinyl. The second compiles two 1970s vintage Kamu-led tone poems previously keeping company with his classic Finnish RSO versions of symphonies 1 and 3 (he also recorded 2 with the Berlin Phil) alongside Jochum’s rarely encountered Sibelius from DGG 17075 - an earlyish 10” LP. So far as Kamu is concerned whatever happened to this Karajan protégé who here delivers a very succulent Bard - quite the most romantic version I have heard. He also puts across a good En Saga but not excelling Stein or Furtwängler. As to the stirring Lemminkainen Suite this for many years held sway in the LP catalogue. There were not many other versions: Jalas and the Hungarian State were reputedly rather rough but with good credentials; Jensen sounded rather matte. On Nonesuch Lukas Foss was very good indeed but not always easy to get hold of. In the late 1970s Ormandy signed up with EMI and re-recorded the Lemminkainen Legends that he had originally recorded with the Philadelphia in the 1950s for CBS. It was and remains revelatory. Kamu is very good so it is well worth tracking down this inexpensive set. The woodwind are given a burnished emphasis and those crashing chords at the end of Lemminkainen and the Maidens of Saari are still stunning. There is a great deal here to enjoy. If you want to extend your knowledge of Kamu in the symphonies then do go for the DG Trio set. It’s intriguing to see Cord Garben credited as executive producer of the Kamu tracks. We are more used to hearing him now as pianist in lieder by Zeisl, Loewe and Zemlinsky. Wind back two decades and here is Jochum with a slowly stuttering start to a satisfying Nightride and a very good Oceanides. He is let down only by an overly mechanistic Tempest prelude. This will appeal to LP era nostalgiacs but also and more widely Sibelius fans will find that Kamu in particular has much to tell us about Sibelius performing tradition.
Will appeal to LP era nostalgiacs and the wider constituency of Sibelius fans.