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Sibelius: Lemminkainen Legends, Tapiola / Leif Segerstam

Release Date: 06/18/1996 
Label:  Ondine   Catalog #: 852   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Leif Segerstam
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Yes, this work is a symphony, at least as much as is Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, Tchaikovsky’s Manfred, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Antar, or Liszt’s Faust. Sibelius himself referred to it as such, and in fact claimed that he really had written nine symphonies (including Kullervo), despite the fact that this one got broken up into its constituent parts early on in its history. There have been some excellent modern performances of the complete work, including those by Salonen, Järvi (twice), Saraste, and best of all, this one (Vänskä’s turned out to be one of his big disappointments).

This performance has several things going for it. First of all, Segerstam is himself a violinist
Read more and he pays special attention to Sibelius’ string writing, always crucial. Those acres of tremolo have to sound purposeful, and the sheer texture and timbre of the string playing here leaves just about every other version in the dust. Second, Segerstam has the gift of touching in subtle details of color and rhythm without breaking the back of a phrase. You can hear this immediately at the start of Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari, where he catches the cross-rhythm in Sibelius’ writing as in no other performance (sound sample below). Third, Segerstam places Lemminkäinen in Tuonela second in playing order, which was Sibelius’ original idea and which works better, in my opinion, than reserving second position for The Swan of Tuonela.

None of this would matter were the interpretations not outstanding expressively, but they certainly are. Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari is the most passionate performance on disc; Lemminkäinen in Tuonela the grimmest. The Swan has atmosphere to burn, with a superb English horn solo; and the finale, Lemminkäinen’s Return, is tremendously exciting but weighty enough to serve as a true symphonic finale. The whole production is magnificently recorded, and topped off by a considerable bonus in the form of a slow, brooding, incredibly intense rendering of Tapiola. A great disc.

-- David HurwitzClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Leif Segerstam
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Finland 
Date of Recording: 08/1994 
Venue:  Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, Finland 
Length: 19 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Leif Segerstam
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893/1895; Finland 
Date of Recording: 10/1995 
Venue:  Järvenpää Hall, Helsinki, Finland 
Length: 50 Minutes 4 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: I. Lemminkainen and the Maidens of Saari
Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: II. Lemminkainen in Tuonela
Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: III. The Swan of Tuonela
Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: IV. Lemminkainen's Return
Tapiola, Op. 112

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