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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
The Sibelius Edition - Volume 13
CD 1 Organ Works and Religious music [62:49]
Organ Works and Religious Music including the Two Pieces op.111 for organ (single pedal version) and Masonic Ritual Music op.113 for tenor, male voice choir and organ.
CD 2 Fragments, sketches and Incomplete works [47:04]
Including orchestral music: Luonnotar-Pohjola's Daughter fragment; Chamber Music: Den lilla sjojungfrun for narrator and string quartet; Piano Music; Organ Music.
CD 3 Alternative Versions [53:12]
Including double pedal version of Two Pieces for organ op.111, pieces for mixed choir and orchestra, The Bells of Kallio Church, Masonic Ritual Music op.113 (alternative versions); Andante festivo JS34b for string orchestra and timpani (Finnish Radio Orchestra/Jean Sibelius); Jean Sibelius at Home - additional video material playable in computers and other AVI-compatible media devices
CD 4 [79:29] Around Sibelius –music by Sibelius's friends, contemporaries and pupils: KAJANUS (Finnish Rhapsody 1, Aino); KUULA Wedding March; MADETOJA songs; BUSONI Bagatelles, PACIUS March of the Pori regiment, JÄRNEFELT Suite in E flat and Berceuse for violin and orchestra all from existing BIS CDs
DVD [42:38]: Visual Journey to the Music of Jean Sibelius – music of Sibelius to photos of the Finnish archipelago by Janne Gröning|
Harri Viitanen (organ, harmonium), Jorma Hynninen (baritone), Hannu Jurmu (tenor), Johan Simberg (narrator), Folke Gräsbeck, Andrew Barnett (glockenspiel)
Tempera Quartet, YL Male Voice Choir/Matti Hyökki, Dominante Choir/Seppo Murto
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä, Jaako Kuusisto
rec. August 2005 – September 2010, Finland including 1967 Marcussen organ of Helsnki Cathedral. DDD except Andante Festivo, 1 Jan 1939, Helsinki Concert Hall, Finland. ADD
4 CDs for the price of 3
Many world première recordings
Detailed contents list at end of review
BIS-CD-1936-38 [4 CDs: 62:49 + 47:04 + 53:12 + 79:29 + DVD: 42:38]

Experience Classicsonline

The Bis Sibelius Edition was launched in September 2007. Exactly four years later, in September 2011, the final box was released.

Bis have thus taken the last stride and completed its founder’s pilgrimage to record every note Sibelius wrote. Fanfares and fireworks are in celebratory order. That said this box is inevitably pretty miscellaneous as is reflected prominently in its title. Had the twelfth and thirteenth volumes been swapped around we would have ended on a more obviously affirmative symphonic note. This process was never about theatrical effects so there is no cause for dismay.

Robert von Bahr’s beatific vision is encompassed by thirteen boxes which sit with their spines spelling out Sibelius’s name across the CD shelving. In this it is rather like the Nikolai Miaskovsky symphony project launched by Olympia and landed by Alto. Those who have held back can obtain all 68 CDs in the Bis Sibelius Edition in their over-sized boxes for £374.95. I do wonder whether, for the Sibelius 150 festivities in 2015, Bis will be tempted to reissue the whole set in a deluxe package. Pure speculation.

The present box includes three music discs – none of them packed tight - and another of music by Sibelius’s friends and contemporaries. I couldn’t get the 5:52 film of Sibelius at Home to play but that is down to my Neanderthal technical abilities. There’s a DVD of colour stills taken by Janne Gröning and juxtaposed with a selection of Sibelius’s less obscure works: a slide show with music. A 139 page booklet sets out the programme notes, track-list, words and translations. There’s Andrew Barnett’s standard 2006 potted biography in five languages and the Sibelius Edition leaflet uniform across the volumes. New to the scene is the 60 page Index to The Sibelius Edition. This lists every work organised in eighteen genres: e.g. Orchestra, Theatre Music, Piano, Songs. In this way one can find in which volume and on which disc and track a particular work is located as well as dates and JS numbers. One section is called The ones that got away. In this category, among sixteen entries, is The Holy Grail: the Eighth Symphony allocated JS190. Also lost is the complete score for the last of Sibelius’s three cantatas for Helsinki University (1897). We’ll not venture into the Rumsfeldian realms of works we do not know about.

The situation is agreeably complicated by another Bis issue this month: BIS-SACD-1945 which has the two Tempest suites and overture as well as Tapiola and The Bard played by the Lahti Symphony conducted by Sibelius veteran and Karajan protégée Okko Kamu. Clearly Bis will continue to renew the Sibelius legacy; never mind perhaps recording appendices to the thirteen volumes as new works and variants come to light.

This Edition reflects astonishing enterprise systematically carried through with love, rigour and application. We will never know all its heroes though more prominent amongst the names we do know must be Robert von Bahr, Andrew Barnett, Folke Gräsbeck, Neeme Järvi and Osmo Vänskä. Those who have not already received Finnish decorations and Sibelius medals can surely be expected to receive them. One would hope that international arts and educational organisations such as UNESCO are also carrying out their appraisals and will recognise this momentous achievement.

One should also not forget the institutions who were crucial to the project. How about the publishers Breitkopf und Härtel and Wilhelm Hansen, the National Library of Finland and the Sibelius family?

Whether in the single pedal versions on CD 1 or the double on CD 3 the Intrada Op. 111 speaks of structure and epic struggle. There’s something of the Fifth Symphony about it. The undulating gloaming of the 1931 Mournful Music has the signature of RVW’s string writing yet one can easily imagine both of these late pieces being orchestrated by a person with the echt Sibelian touch. The Two Pieces JS153 are sombre and hymnal. The Three Introductory Antiphons for baritone, mixed choir and organ again ring with earnest Protestant commitment aided by the sturdy singing of Jörma Hynninen. The second piece setting sections of Revelations 14 is slightly more animated with some unworldly note transitions. The final section is more passionate although this in turn shows up the weave in Hynninen’s veteran voice. After a rather dull Lord’s Blessing comes the fabled Masonic Ritual Music op. 113 in 12 pieces variously for solo organ, organ and baritone, male voice choir with organ and alone. Some of this is frankly pretty generalised stuff; others are truly impassioned such as Adjusting the Altar and First Degree, Procession – the latter reminiscent of the Sanctus Fortis expostulation in Gerontius. Salem is a simple curvaceous hymn which plunges into some stygian territory rather akin to Lemminkainen in Tuonela. The 1946 Ode to Fraternity has radiant and undulating writing for the choir. The Hymn includes a defiant tenor with harmonic tension between the choir and the organ and a thunderous peroration. The 1927 Marche Funebre has overtones of the Fourth Symphony while the contemporary Ode strides along in jollity. The last of the Masonic movements is an a cappella male voice choir version of Finlandia.

There’s not much orchestral music in this box but CD 2 starts with 7:20 of the Luonnotar – Pohjola’s Daughter fragment (1905-6). The Luonnotar aspect has nothing to do with the later tone poem of the same name. It was a work that emerged from the abandoned cantata Marjatta and was in turn discarded and the material cannibalised into what amounts to a broad brush preliminary of Pohjola’s Daughter. Some of the material found expression in the slow movement of the Third Symphony and in Love Song from Scènes Historiques suite No. 2. Frankenstein joins are associated with the melting backwards and forwards between familiar and unfamiliar. It is an eccentric compendium but it’s well worth hearing. Strange combats and collisions (7:17) contrast with shards that are reminiscent of the Third and Fourth Symphonies (3.47). The Little Mermaid for reciter and string quartet is in four movements. These range across Hardyesque and Roma folk dances in which the solo violin preens and pirouettes to the heightened emotions of the Smetana quartets and in the final episode the Sibelius Violin Concerto. Folke Gräsbaeck guides us through fleeting sketches for the symphonies to inconsequential pieces for children to concert grandeur for Landscape II (1929). The seven organ brevities are quite provocative. They move between Reger, gunpowder and brooding mystery.

The third CD includes just short of five minutes of some rather Messiah-like writing for choir and orchestra – sweet and warmly brooding stuff though not really sounding like Sibelius. Glockenspiel drafts for the Kallio church carillon are played by Andrew Barnett. One is more than redolent of the Second Symphony. We then hear the bells of Kallio Church in Sibelius’s completed commission. Alternative versions of five movements from the Masonic Music are throaty, soothing and hymn-like. The Whosever Hath Love movement sounds very muck like a Christmas nowell with a dash of positive sanguine Karelian genetic material. After some miscellaneous other tracks we end with Sibelius himself conducting Andante Festivo in 1939 – not the first time it has appeared but fascinating nonetheless. How sad that like Nielsen he did not record his symphonies. The disc of a selection of music by his friends is a makeweight and though pleasing the 43 minute DVD still pics slide-show with music by Sibelius is in the same category – good to have but not decisive.

We are told that the 68 CDs that comprise the Sibelius Edition encompass 80 hours, 30 minutes and one second of music, great, provocative, good, so-so and mundane. We can now make up our own minds about which is which. The 13 boxes in any event represent a 21st century monument to a composer who lived in the two previous centuries. Appetising choices and journeys of discovery are now available to us and to future generations in lustrous and well-informed performances.

Rob Barnett

Reviews of the BIS Sibelius Edition (including single CDs)

Detailed Contents List - Volume 13 – Miscellaneous Works

CD 1 - Organ Works and Religious Music [62:49]

Two Pieces, Op.111
a. Intrada · single pedal version
b. Surusoitto · published version
(Mournful Music)

Two Pieces, JS 153
1. Preludium
2. Postludium

Kolme johdantovuorolaulua, JS 110
(Three Introductory Antiphons) for liturgist [baritone], mixed choir and organ
1. Palmusunnuntaina (On Palm Sunday)
2. Pyhäinpäivänä tai hautajaisjumalanpalveluksissa (On All Saints’ Day)
3. Kristillisissä nuorisojuhlissa (For Christian Youth Ceremonies)

Herran siunaus, JS 95 (The Lord’s Blessing) for baritone and organ

Musique religieuse (Masonic Ritual Music), Op.113
for tenor, male voice choir and organ · first recording with original words
1. Avaushymni (Opening Hymn) (1927, rev. 1948 · version in G major)
Organ solo
2. Alttarin valmistus: Suloinen aate
(Adjusting the Altar: Thoughts Be Our Comfort)
Tenor, organ
3. I. Kulkue ja hymni: Näätkö, kuinka hennon yrtin
(First Degree. Procession and Hymn: Though Young Leaves Be Green)
Tenor, organ
4. III. Kulkue ja hymni: Ken kyynelin
(Third Degree. Procession and Hymn: Who Ne’er Hath Blent His Bread with Tears)
Tenor, organ
5. On kaunis maa (How Fair Are Earth and Living!)
Tenor, organ
6. Salem (Onward, Ye Brethren)
Tenor, organ
7. II. Kellä kaipuu rinnassansa
(Second Degree: Whosoever Hath a Love)
Tenor, organ
8. Veljesvirsi (Ode to Fraternity)
Male voice choir, organ
9. Ylistyshymni (Hymn)
Male voice choir, organ
10. Marche funèbre
Organ solo
11. Suur’ olet, Herra (Ode)
Male voice choir, organ
12. Finlandia-hymni (Finlandia Hymn)
Male voice choir a cappella

Harri Viitanen playing the 1967 Marcussen organ of Helsinki Cathedral [1–19]
Jorma Hynninen (baritone), Hannu Jurmu (tenor)
Dominante Choir/Seppo Murto
YL Male Voice Choir/Matti Hyökki

CD 2 Fragments, Sketches and Incomplete Works [47:04]

Orchestral Music
1. Luonnotar – Pohjola’s Daughter, fragment
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä

2. Untitled Fragment in A major
Material previously used in the choral work Ej med klagan, JS 69
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Jaakko Kuusisto

Chamber Music
- Den lilla sjöjungfrun, fragment, JS 59
(The Little Mermaid) for recitation and string quartet
3. LÅngt ute i havet… Allegro
4. Hela lÅnga dagen kunde de leka…Vivace – Più lento
5. Hon var ett underligt barn… Andantino
6. Ingen längtade sÅ innerligt… Presto
Johan Simberg (recitation)
Tempera Quartet: Laura Vikman violin I · Silva Koskela violin II · Tiila Kangas viola · Ulla Lampela cello

Piano Music
7. Sketch for Kullervo, second movement
From a letter to Aino Järnefelt. Andante molto
8. Sketch for Symphony No.2 in D major, finale
From Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s house in Ruovesi
9. Sketch for Symphony No.5 in E flat major
From a letter to Axel Carpelan

10-30. 21 Pianokompositioner för barn, JS 148
(Piano Works for Children)

Sketches for Kyllikki, three lyric pieces, Op.41
31. I. [Largamente – Allegro] (start of movement)
32. II. [Andantino]
33. III. [Comodo] (middle section of movement)

Sketches for Landscape II
Material possibly planned for Op.114 but ultimately used in Surusoitto, Op.111b
34. First sketch
35. Second sketch

36. Sketch for O Herra, Siunaa
Possibly material for a projected choral work, based on the third movement of the Piano Quintet in G minor, JS 159 (1890). [Adagio]
Folke Gräsbeck (piano)

Organ Music
Four Musical Examples for Organ
From a letter to Into Inha
37. Snabbt [Fast]
38. Mycket lÅngsamt [Very slowly]
39. Moderato
40. Tungt och lÅngsamt [Heavily and slowly]

41. Theme for Improvisation for the London Organ Music Society

Sketches for Two Pieces, Op.111
42. Intrada
43. Surusoitto (Mournful Music)

Harri Viitanen playing the 1967 Marcussen organ of Helsinki Cathedral

All tracks on CD 2: world première recordings

CD 3 - Alternative Versions [53:12]

Two Pieces for organ, Op.111
1. Intrada · double pedal version
2. Surusoitto (Mournful Music) · manuscript version
Harri Viitanen playing the 1967 Marcussen organ of Helsinki Cathedral
world première recordings

[Two Contrapuntal Exercises] for mixed choir and orchestra, alternative versions
3. Herr, du bist ein Fels (Lord, you are a rock)
4. Herr, erzeige uns deine Gnade (Lord, show us your mercy)
Dominante Choir
Lahti Symphony Orchestra/Osmo Vänskä
world première recordings

Vorschläge für die Glocken [der Kallio-Kirche]
(Proposals for the Bell Melody [for Kallio Church]) for glockenspiel
5. Version 1 (D flat major)
6. Version 2 (G flat major)
Andrew Barnett (glockenspiel)
world première recordings

7. Kallion kirkon kellosävel, Op.65b/JS 102 (The Bells of Kallio Church)

Musique religieuse (Masonic Ritual Music), Op.113
Alternative versions
8. 1. Avaushymni (Opening Hymn) (1927 · version in E flat major)
Organ solo
9. 2. Alttarin valmistus: Suloinen aate (1927)
(Adjusting the Altar: Thoughts Be Our Comfort)
Organ solo
10. 7. II. Kulkue [Kellä kaipuu rinnassansa] (1927)
(Second Degree: Procession [Whosoever Hath a Love])
Organ solo
11. 9. Ylistyshymni (Hymn) (first version, 1946) (World Première Recording)
Tenor, male voice choir, organ
12. 9. Hymn (1946, revised New York edition 1950)
Tenor, male voice choir, organ

Movements with harmonium:
13. 1. Avaushymni (Opening Hymn) (1927 · version in E flat major)
Harmonium solo
14. 5. On kaunis maa (How Fair Are Earth and Living!) (1927)
Tenor, harmonium

Movements with piano:
15. 4. Third Degree. Procession and Hymn:
Who Ne’er Hath Blent His Bread with Tears (1927, revised New York edition 1950)
Tenor, piano
16. Marche funèbre (1927, revised New York edition 1950)
Piano solo

Harri Viitanen (organ/harmonium)
The 1967 Marcussen organ of Helsinki Cathedral
Harmonium by O. Lidholm/M. Hofberg, Borna/Leipzig, No. 57772
Harmonium from Kangasalan urkutehtas

Hannu Jurmu (tenor), Folke Gräsbeck (piano)
YL Male Voice Choir/Matti Hyökki

17. Andante festivo, JS 34b (1922, orch. 1938), for string orchestra and timpani
Finnish Radio Orchestra/Jean Sibelius
rec. 1 January 1939 – mono

CD 4: Around Sibelius – a full-length CD with music by Sibelius's friends, contemporaries and pupils

Bonus DVD: Visual Journey to the Music of Jean Sibelius


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


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