With his 150th
anniversary coming along next year, it is likely
that Sibelius — and his great contemporary Nielsen — will be given a high
profile; and rightly so.
This Chandos reissue of recordings from twenty years ago still sounds
splendid, and there is no doubting the Sibelian credentials of Petri Sakari
and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, whose recordings of the symphonies (for
) made such a very positive impression.
The concert suites drawn for the theatre music form an important and
rewarding aspect of Sibelius’s orchestral music. They seldom offer the power
and drama of the symphonies but they abound in music of beautifully drawn
sensitivity and some wonderful melodic inspiration. As ever the composer’s
orchestral mastery is assured, and his judgements of instrumentation and of
musical development are impeccable.
The orchestral playing here is of a high order, with string sound that is
never less than pleasing and some distinguished contributions from the wind
It is inevitable that alternative versions of this repertoire will offer
different couplings, and one particular issue is that the selection from
is more restricted than the full suite found elsewhere,
for example on Neeme Järvi’s excellent recording with the Gothenburg
Symphony Orchestra on BIS-CD359
On a less positive note, the accompanying booklet’s presentation falls
somewhat below Chandos’s usually high standards, and a tighter editorial
control would have reaped benefit. Towards the back no fewer than four full
pages are given over to advertising CDs of vaguely related Scandinavian
repertoire, while the introductory notes feature the music in the opposite
order to that found on the CD – why not have this chronologically as well? A
case of ‘right hand and left hand’, perhaps. Worst of all are the cue
points, which are difficult to read in the booklet and practically
impossible to read on the back of the case – the worst such example I have
ever encountered. It’s not a crucial issue, I admit, but it is undoubtedly
irritating because it’s so thoughtless and unnecessary.