Notes and Editorial Reviews
Sergiu Comissiona has long been admired for his all-round musical sympathies. Sadly, he has not been a regular visitor to Britain in recent years, preferring to devote himself to those orchestras where he holds a position, most notably the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He has long been an initiator of stimulating musical projects; while Music Director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, he commissioned fanfares from 30 of America's leading composers. In 1990, to mark the 125th anniversary of Sibelius's birth, he persuaded the Helsinki Philharmonic to commission eight composers from all round the world to write a short piece each as a tribute to Finland's national composer.
Not surprisingly, some of the pieces are more successful than others. However, the project complete, all the pieces have been released on disc by Comissiona and his committed orchestra. They start with a lively—and presumably authentic—account of the master's En saga. This music must surely be coursing through the veins of all Finnish musicians. A delightful and undemanding piece by Thea Musgrave leads the tributes with deliberate echoes of Sibelius's music. This is followed by Ciacona by Einar Englund: a traditionally-based piece by a composer who knew and was encouraged and supported by Sibelius. Then comes an atmospheric piece by the Japanese composer, Joji Yuasa, and an exhilarating work by the young Finnish composer, Erkki-Sven Tuur. The American composer, Tobias Picker, describes his brief tribute as a conversation between Sibelius, Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Wilfred Josephs's piece is rather static while Marius Constant has composed a beautiful score with a real feel for colour and texture. The collection ends with a big piece, despite its brevity, from Poul Ruders again containing allusions to the music of Sibelius.
Although this is a commemorative disc which will be a must for the admirers and devotees of Sibelius's music, it will also be of interest to those with a taste for the less demanding byways of new music.
-- Gramophone [4/1992]