in Reviews

Sibelius à volonté

by Martin Anderson

"With the fiftieth anniversary of Sibelius' death falling this year, it is only natural that record companies should want to mark the occasion. BIS, though, has gone rather further than you might have expected."

The Essential Sibelius*

BIS-CD-1697/1700 (19 hours, 18 minutes)

With the fiftieth anniversary of Sibelius’ death falling this year, it is only natural that record companies should want to mark the occasion. BIS, though, has gone rather further than you might have expected. From the very start of his label, Robert von Bahr, ‘Mr BIS’, dreamed that he would record every surviving note that Sibelius wrote, and 24 years and many dozens of recordings later he is getting close to achieving his goal; it will be, as he writes, ‘the most comprehensive edition of any composer in the history of recorded music’ (well, to nit-pick, there are some composers whose entire output would fit just as comprehensively on two CDs, but we can let that pass).

By way of a taster, BIS has released fifteen CDs of, as the title of the box has it, the essential Sibelius; on sale for the price of four full-price discs, it is an astonishing bargain. It contains Osmo Vänskä’s cycle of the seven symphonies and Kullervo, and then takes us through some of the tone-poems and other orchestral works, the music for violin and orchestra, cantatas, theatre music, choral music, songs, chamber music and works for piano.

The early chamber music can hardly be described as ‘essential’, and there is quite a lot of it here, but in this embarras de richesse, such an objection is churlish. I doubt that any reader of FMQ buying The Essential Sibelius will avoid duplicating a number of recordings in his collection (and collecting CDs does seem to be a male thing!), but he is likely to plug all sorts of gap at the same time. And it’s not simply a question of exhaustiveness: some of these performances – Jorma Hynninen in some of the orchestral songs, for example, and Vänskä’s Kullervo – are unlikely to be bettered.

* Symphonies Nos. 1-7, Opp. 39, 43, 53, 63, 82, 104 and 105;1 En Saga, Op. 9;1 Valse triste, Op. 44, No. 1;1 Pohjola’s Daughter, Op. 49;1 Finlandia, Op. 26;1 Tapiola, Op. 112;1 Violin Concerto, Op. 47;1,2 Two Serious Melodies, Op. 77;1,3 Two Serenades, Op. 69;4,5 Six Humoresques, Opp. 87 and 89; 4,5 Kullervo, Op. 7; 1,,6,7,8 The Wood-Nymph, Op. 15;1   Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22;1 Karelia Suite, Op. 11; 4 Scènes historiques, Set I, Op. 25;4 Song of the Athenians, Op. 31, No. 3;1,8,9 The Origin of Fire, Op. 32;1,8,10 The Captive Queen, Op. 48;1,11 Rakastava, Op. 14;1 Andante festivo, JS34b;1 King Christian II: Suite, Op. 27;4 Pelléas and Melisande: Suite, Op. 46;4 The Tempest, Op. 109 (extracts);4 Snöfrid, Op. 29;1,12,13 The Bard, Op. 64;1 The Oceanides, Op. 73;1 Luonnotar, Op. 70;1,14 ‘The Broken Voice’, Op. 18, No. 1;15 ‘The Boat Journey’, Op. 18, No. 3;15 ‘Song of my Heart’, Op. 18, No. 6;15 Rakastava, JS160a (Op. 14);15 To the Fatherland, JS98a;16,17 ‘Fire on the Island’, Op. 18, No. 4;16 ‘We Praise Thee, Our Creator’, Op. 23, No. 6a;16 Men from Land and Sea, Op. 65a;16 ‘At Sea’, Op. 84, No. 5;18 Fridolin’s Folly, JS84;18 Jonah’s Voyage, JS100; 18 March of the Finnish Jäger Battalion, Op. 91a;1,8 Finlandia Hymn, Op. 26;16 ‘Svarta rosor’, Op. 36, No. 1; ‘Men min fågel märks dock icke’, Op. 36, No. 2; ‘Säv, sä, susa’, Op. 36, No. 4;19 ‘Illalle’, Op. 17, No. 6;19 ‘Im Feld ein Mädchen singt’, Op. 50, No. 3;19 ‘Aus banger Brust’, Op. 50, No. 4;19 ‘Die stille Stadt’, Op. 50, No. 5;19 ‘Våren flyktar hastigt’, Op. 13, No. 4;20 ‘S’en har jag ej frågat mera’, Op. 17, No. 1;20 ‘Höstkväll’, Op. 38, No. 1;20 Arioso, Op. 3;20 The Water-Sprite, JS138;21 ‘Give me no splendour, gold or pomp’, Op. 1, No. 4;21 ‘The Tree’, Op. 57, No. 5;21 ‘The Water-Sprite’, Op. 57, No. 8;21 Hymn to Thaïs, JS97;21 ‘The Echo Nymph’, Op. 72, No. 4;21 ‘Longing is my heritage’, Op. 86, No. 2;21 ‘Ye Sisters, Ye Brothers’, Op. 86, No. 6;21 ‘Demanten på marssön’, Op. 36, No. 6;22 ‘The Song of the Cross-Spider’, Op. 27, No. 4;22 ‘På verandan vid havet’, Op. 38, No. 2;22 ‘Kom nun hit, död’, Op. 60, No. 1;22 Swim, Duck, Swim, JS180;19 ‘The North’, Op. 90, No. 1;19 Narcissus, JS140;19 ‘Den första kyssen’, Op. 37, No. 1;19 ‘Var det en dröm?’, Op. 37, No. 4;19 ‘Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte’, Op. 37, No. 5;19 Tanken, JS192; 19,23 Moderato – Allegro appassionato;24 String Quartet in A minor;24 String Quartet in D minor, Voces intimae, Op. 56;24 Piano Trio in D minor, JS209;25 Piano Quintet in G minor, JS159;26 La pompeuse Marche d’Asis, JS116;27 Water Drops, JS216;28 Andante cantabile in E flat major, JS30b;29 Andante cantabile in G major, JS33;30 Violin Sonata in F major, JS178;31 Malinconia, Op. 20;32 Four Pieces, Op. 78;33 Violin Sonatina in E major, Op. 80;33 two Danses champêtres, Op. 106;33 Florestan, JS82;34 Impromptu in B minor, Op. 5, No. 5;34 Piano Sonata in F major, Op. 12;35 Romance in D flat major, Op. 24, No. 9;35 Kyllikki, Op. 41;35 Three Sonatinas, Op. 67;35 ‘The Solitary Fir’, Op. 75, No. 2;35 ‘The Spruce’, Op. 75, No. 5;35 ‘Scène romantique’, Op. 101, No. 5;35 ‘The Village Church’, Op. 103, No. 135


1Lahti Symphony Orchestra, cond. Osmo Vänskä, with 2Leonidas Kavakos (violin), 3Marko Ylönen (cello), 6Lilli Pasakiivi (mezzo soprano), 7Raimo Laukka (baritone), 8Helsinki University Chorus (YL), 9Lahti Boys’ Choir, 10Tommi Hakala (baritone), 11Dominante Choir, 12Stina Ekblad (narrator), 13Jubilate Choir, 14Helena Juntunen (soprano); Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, cond. 4Neeme Järvi, 20,22Jorma Panula; 15Helsinki University Chorus, cond. Matti Hyökki; 16Jubilate Choir, cond. Astrid Riska with 17,21Monica Groop (mezzo soprano) and 17Sauli Tiilikainen (baritone); 19Anne Sofie van Otter (mezzo soprano), Bengt Forsberg (piano), with 23Moonica Groop; 20MariAnne Häggander (soprano); Lasse Pöysti (narrator), Jaakko Kuusisto (violin); 21Love Derwinger (piano); 22Jorma Hynninen (baritone); 24Tempera Quartet; 25-27,28-31, 34Folke Gräsbeck (piano), with 25-27,29,31Jaakko Kuusisto (violin), 25,27Marko Ylönen (cello), 26Laura Vikman (violin), 26Joel Laakso (cello), 29Harri Viitanen (harmonium), 32Torleif Thedéen (cello); 28Jaakko Kuusisto (violin), Taneli Turunen (cello); 33Nils-Erik Sparf (violin), Bengt Forsberg (piano); 35Erik T. Tawaststjerna (piano)