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Sibelius: Scaramouche Op. 71 / Segerstam, Turku Philharmonic

Sibelius / Turku Philharmonic Orchestra / Segerst
Release Date: 11/13/2015 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8573511  
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Leif Segerstam
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Saramouche is, after Kullervo, Sibelius’ largest work in any form, and a strange one it is. Originally the composer thought he had been commissioned to provide a relatively brief suite of dances, only to discover (oops!) that the plan was for him to write a full-length score of continuous music to a scenario that oozes fin-de-siècle decadence. Here’s the deal:

A bunch of bored aristocrats pretends to enjoy a party. Leilon, the host, is dysfunctionally married to Blondelaine, who is frustrated allegedly because he won’t dance with her, but we all know that the dance business is symbolic for other husbandly things that also aren’t going too well. Suddenly Scaramouche, your typical hunchbacked viola-playing dwarf turns
Read more up, and with his magic viola he hypnotizes the horny Blondelaine into following him into the woods where he allegedly has his way with her. So naturally she stabs him (in upper-class fashion) as a way of making up with Leilon, who delightedly watches her dance herself to death before himself going insane. End of story.

I offer for your consideration the scene of Blondelaine’s Dance of Doom (sound clip). As you can plainly hear, Elektra she ain’t, and it’s all done rather more effectively in works such as Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy. While very much of its time, Sibelius was not really comfortable writing decadent sleeze (it was a Viennese specialty), though the scoring is imaginative and the music has plenty of otherworldly atmosphere. You can decide for yourself if seventy-one minutes of this is more than you need.

Sibelius did make a suite out of the full score, but if you’re going to do Scaramouche at all you might as well have the whole thing. Järvi’s version on BIS represents the only competition to this newcomer, and it’s very good, but Segerstam captures the music’s weirdness with greater relish and Sibelius completists will surely need this performance to fill out their collections. As the final release in Segerstams’s first rate survey of Sibelius’ theater music for Naxos, you really can’t do better.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Scaramouche, Op. 71 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Leif Segerstam
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913; Finland 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 A welcome discovery August 17, 2016 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Scaramouche is a ballet about supernatural seduction, moving towards its inevitable tragic outcome. The score starts in a light-hearted mood, with charming folk-like melodies. But as the story progresses, the mood changes -- but gradually. To my ears, Sibelius' score (at least in mood) resembled his En Saga. There's an undercurrent of things not being quite right that moves closer to the forefront as the work progresses. To me, that gradual building of unease is what makes this score so compelling. To hear just the opening scene or even something from the last part loses that context, and blunts the emotional impact of the music. My recommendation is to listen to this work straight through -- and do so more than once. Only then, I think, can the subtle drama of Sibelius' score become apparent. As always, Lief Segerstam delivers a straightforward interpretation of the music. It gives me the impression that Segerstam is trying to keep out of the way and let the music speak for itself. And that music is well-served by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, which plays -- as they have throughout the series -- with commitment and expressiveness." Report Abuse
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