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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Orchestral Rarities    Kuopio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Atso Almila with Jaakko Kuusisto (violin) FINLANDIA 3984-23391-2
Scene de ballet, Overture in E Major, Overture in A minor, Cassazione Op 6, Funeral march, Wedding March, Song of the people of Uusimaa, Serenades 1 & 2, Berceuse, Polonaise, March of the Jaegers
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Castanets? Sibelius? Yes this is the extraordinary colouration Sibelius employs in parts of his early 1891 work Scene de ballet. It is something of an early valse triste with a disconcerting distancing of the waltz for this is music for a morality play - perhaps remorse brought on by reckless carousing? It has splashes of colour from castanets and triangle but the intensity of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique seems to have been a model for this rather demonic bacchanalian piece.

The Scene de ballet is the first of 12 short rarely-heard Sibelius pieces. They are interesting but hardly earth shattering or exciting discoveries. Two overtures follow the first in E Major and the other in A minor. The Overture in E Major, subtitled Wolf-hunting in Siberia, (again from 1891) resembling a Finnish sleigh song in melody and rhythm, is not very original; it is influenced by Bruckner and Wagner but anticipates Kullervo and Leminkäinen. The A minor Overture (1902) has more charm and joviality and it owes something to Mendelssohn while anticipating Sibelius's own Third Symphony.

Cassazione op 6 (1904) was meant to be a light work for outdoor entertainment but its ghostly episodes must have sent a shiver through its listeners. In Memoriam (1909/10) is more impressive - an imposing work, an expression of deep personal pain or death; it was written while the composer was in Berlin studying Mahler's Fifth Symphony. The doleful Wedding March (1911) would not have impressed many brides; but it was written as part of his incidental music for a play called The Language of Birds. The orchestration is interesting no bassoons or horns and only one oboe but with a wealth of percussion. The music has a chamber-music feel but is rhythmically, melodically and thematically amorphous although one is aware of bird calls.

Song of the people of Uusimaa (1912) is a noble and quite memorable semi-patriotic piece.

Serenade No. 1 in D Major (1912) for violin and orchestra is lyrical yet it has a darkly passionate force with the strings (as the notes put it) 'painting shadows of the internal turmoil of the soul'. The accompanying Serenade No 2 in G Minor (1913) opens with a sweet melody but again its darkened by the C sharp-G tritone. This Serenade is reminiscent of the finale of the Violin Concerto and the ride section of Night Ride and Sunrise. Violinist Kuusisto is darkly passionate in both pieces.

The programme ends with three short pieces: a dejected Berceuse (the booklet describes it as happy!); a defiant Polonaise (1916) tinged with melancholy; and, finally, a bright marching song, Jääkärimarssi (March of the Jaegers) (1917).

The Kuopi Symphony Orchestra play with commitment. For Sibelius completists


Ian Lace


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