The chief interest of this release, of course, will be Aulis Sallinen’s orchestrations of eight Sibelius songs. But the programme as a whole has an intriguing form, opening with one of Sibelius’s last orchestral works and proceeding to one of his earliest before going on to the song orchestrations themselves.
That order of events roughly mirrors the late-to-early succession in Sallinen’s choice of songs – which are, for the record: ‘De bägge rosorna’ (‘The Two Roses’), Op. 88, No. 2; ‘Sippan’ (‘The Anemone’), Op. 88, No. 4; ‘Dold förening’ (‘Hidden Connection’), Op. 86, No. 3; ‘Under strandens granar’ (‘Under the Fir Trees on the Shore’), Op. 13, No. 1; ‘Kyssens hopp’ (‘The Kiss’s Hope’), Op. 13, No. 2; ‘Hennes budskap’ (‘Her Message’), Op. 90, No. 2; ‘Men min fågel märks dock icke’ (‘But my Bird is Nowhere to be Seen’), Op. 36, No. 2; and ‘Jägargossen’ (‘The Young Huntsman’), Op. 13, No. 7.
Sallinen’s orchestrations are a miracle of restraint, somehow managing to sound entirely appropriate without mimicking Sibelius’s own style (except, perhaps, in ‘Under strandens granar’, which is a miniature tone poem in its own right): his textures are lighter, with less ‘middle’, and little flashes of colour from winds, brass and harp all bringing an invigorating freshness.
Anne Sofie von Otter generally acquits herself well, but there’s just a hint of ugliness when her voice comes under pressure. The FRSO musicians under Hannu Lintu contribute outstanding playing, in the chamber-like textures of the songs, in Lintu’s highly charged Tapiola and in an account of En Saga that makes effective use of the textural contrasts.
The recorded sound is outstanding. But who OK’d that awful cover? It looks like something from a voodoo ceremony.
Tapiola, Op. 112; En Saga, Op. 9; Eight Songs orch. Aulis Sallinen
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano); Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, cond. Hannu Lintu