Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a very useful set for anyone looking to fill in their Sibelius collection. Yes, it has some familiar works: the Lemminkäinen Suite, the Valse triste, and Pelléas et Mélisande. But the rest—Kullervo, The Maiden in the Tower, and the various cantatas—includes some of his least known pieces, and these have some great moments, especially Kullervo, which is winning increasing acclaim as an early masterpiece. Even the two tone poems Luonnotar and Night Ride and Sunrise (here listed as “Nightride and sunrise”) are relative rarities.
There are a couple of caveats. The notes speak extensively of Sibelius’ reception in France, as if anyone cares, even in France, and there are no texts and translations. The
performances, however, are uniformly excellent. Järvi’s Kullervo and Lemminkäinen Suite rank with the best, being extremely well played and smartly paced. They didn’t get much attention when originally released on Virgin, perhaps because of the very strong competition, but having them repackaged in this set may give them some welcome exposure.
Soprano Solveig Kingelborn takes the lead very affectingly in Luonnotar and The Maiden in the Tower. The latter is Sibelius’ only opera, a slight but charming work with a rudimentary plot: bad guy locks up girl in tower; her boyfriend hears her cry for help; she gets rescued. End of story. It takes about 36 minutes, but the plot isn’t the point. It sounds like Sibelius.
The cantatas contain some occasional works, mainly to patriotic texts, but that does not mean the music isn’t heartfelt. Snöfrid is particularly atmospheric; Väinon’s Song is an important late work (Op. 110), and Sandels comes close to sharing some thematic material with the contemporaneous First Symphony. The choirs are excellent, and the engineering is first class. Worth considering.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday
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