This month sees the release of the first in our six-volume set of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius. Falling outside his symphonies, violin concerto and tone poems, the works featured on each disc comprise mainly music written for the stage. Volume 2 will be released next month.
At the helm of the project is the conductor Leif Segerstam, acclaimed for his many recordings with numerous orchestras. Here he directs the platinum record-making and award-winning Turku Philharmonic. Together they make superb advocates for the music of their compatriot Jean Sibelius, who was the most significant figure in the formation of Finland's musical identity.
Jean Sibelius was the most significant figure in the formation of Finland’s musical identity. Beyond the famous symphonies and tone poems he was prolific in other genres, including music for the theatre. King Christian II and Kuolema ensured Sibelius’s fame throughout Europe, the latter including the haunting melody (track 2) which would later become the Valse triste. The Two Songs from Twelfth Night contrast the spectre of death with more comical moods, an effect also to be heard in one of Sibelius’s least performed orchestral works, the Overture in A minor.
Watch a video interview with Leif Segerstam on “these very special gems of Sibelius”
Listen to an extract from King Christian II: Serenade
SIBELIUS, J.: Belshazzar’s Feast / Cortège / Overture in E major / Scène de ballet / Menuetto / Processional Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, Segerstam
Alongside the great symphonies and tone poems, music for the theatre played an influential role in Sibelius’s development. From exquisite nocturnal tranquility to the macabre ‘Dance of Life’, Belshazzar’s Feast is an exotic tale of seduction and tragedy to which Sibelius responded with some of his most hauntingly beautiful writing for the stage. The early Menuetto and good-humored Cortège were considered good enough by the composer to be recycled for further stage productions, while the Overture in E and elegantly sinister Scene de Ballet started life as Sibelius’s first attempt at composing a symphony.
Listen to an extract from Overture in E major, JS 145
About the Artists
Leif Segerstam is a conductor, composer, violinist and pianist with a prominent international career. He has conducted in most of the world’s leading opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and La Scala. He has been Chief Conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra since 2012. In 2004 Leif Segerstam was awarded the annual Finnish State Prize for Music and in 2005 the highly esteemed Sibelius Medal. He has gained wide acclaim for his many recordings with different orchestras. While pursuing his conducting career, Segerstam has also produced an extensive oeuvre as a composer.
The Turku Musical Society, which later formed the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, was founded in 1790. As the oldest orchestra in Finland, the 74-member ensemble continues to develop and flourish under the baton of renowned conductors. Several of the Turku Philharmonic’s recordings have won platinum and other awards. In 2009 the orchestra was awarded the EMMA Classical Album of the Year for their recording of Pehr Henrik Nordgren's Transient Moods.
The soprano Pia Pajala is known for her versatility, wide vocal range, powerful expression and extensive repertoire. Pia Pajala has appeared in many operatic roles especially in contemporary works. A renowned interpreter of Sibelius and Finnish classical music, she regularly performs with chamber ensembles.
The baritone Waltteri Torikka is quickly establishing himself as one of the most promising new talents in the next generation of opera singers from Finland. He was named Young Musician of the Year 2014 by the Finnish Pro Musica Foundation and is the recipient of the 2013 Martti Talvela Foundation Award.