Overture in A minor, JS144; Kuolema: incidental music, JS113;* Two Songs from Twelfth Night, Op. 60;** King Christian II: incidental music, Op. 27
*Pia Pajala (soprano), Waltteri Torikka (baritone)
Naxos 8. 573299
Overture in E minor, JS145; Scène de ballet, JS163; Belshazzar’s Feast, JS48;* The Language of the Birds: Wedding March, JS62; Cortège, JS54; Menuetto, JS5; Processional, Op. 113, No. 6;
*Pia Pajala (soprano)
Naxos 8. 573300
Pelléas et Mélisande: incidental music, JS147; Musik zu einer Szene; Valse lyrique, Op. 96s; Autrefois – Scène pastorale, Op. 96b;* ** Valse chevaleresque, Op. 96c; Morceau romantique sur un motif de Monsieur Jakob van Julin, JS135/a
*Pia Pajala (soprano), **Sari Nordqvist (mezzo-soprano)
Naxos 8. 573301
All with the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Leif Segerstam
This was an intelligent decision: to record an anniversary cycle of orchestral Sibelius looking sideways at his bountiful incidental music and ‘minor’ orchestral works. These three instalments bring some music that is familiar, other pieces beyond the ken of the average Sibelian, and some outright surprises.
The first of the three opens with a 1902 Overture in A minor, which will be news to most folk: proud Sibelian declamations buttress an unexpectedly easy-going central section. OK, it’s not top-drawer Sibelius but it deserved more than a century of obscurity. The Overture in E minor and Scène de ballet which launch the second CD come from a decade earlier, in 1891: they are the remnants of his first attempts at a symphony and although the Overture – the first movement – makes one or two structural miscalculations, the voice is unmistakably that of Sibelius, and the Scène de ballet shows him already finding his particular way of investing familiar dance-forms with the sense that someone sinister is looking over your shoulder.
Some of the programming seems calculated to startle, as in the succession of the jolly, Spanish-flavoured Cortège of 1905, the light-hearted Menuetto of 1894 and solemn (Masonic) Processional of 1938; and Autrefois, though dating from 1919, is deliberately twee. Still, I guess that variety demonstrates the breadth of Sibelius’ inspiration.
The performances of the better-known scores are adequate but little more (they don’t tell you anything new about the music), and the recordings lack depth and detail.