This month we celebrate a clutch of anniversaries for Jean Sibelius, Finland's most eminent composer: the 150th anniversary of his birth falls this month, on December 8, the date also marking the 100th anniversary of the première of his Fifth Symphony, when it was conducted by Sibelius himself on the occasion of his 50th birthday.
Sibelius left a rich legacy of works in numerous genres, including orchestral compositions, piano music, chamber works and songs. He also wrote a considerable amount of orchestral music for the stage. These musical tableaux have largely been neglected in favour of his symphonies, tone poems and the violin concerto. Naxos has had great pleasure in redressing this imbalance throughout this anniversary year with a series of six discs devoted to these dramatic gems, in performances by the Turku Philharmonic under the renowned Sibelius interpreter, Leif Segerstam.
A selection of Sibelius recordings follows. To get in the mood, here's a less familiar piece of his (8.570797).
Listen to Sibelius' Romance from
4 Pieces, Op. 78 for cello and piano
“Pietari Inkinen’s two previous Sibelius anthologies for Naxos were full of insight, and the same holds true for this first instalment in a new cycle of the symphonies ... As before, the young Finn draws playing of infectious zeal from the NZSO ... and his cannily paced and scrupulously prepared readings have much in their favour: intelligence, tastefulness and honesty are the watchwords here.”
“This is a thoroughly good performance of Sibelius 2 and Karelia. In tempos and interpretive gestures it is flawless. The orchestra is excellent. Not a note, a turn of phrase, or any detail of execution is out of place.”
– American Record Guide
“Not only does the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra respond with conspicuous skill and heartwarming application, its 30-year-old Finnish chief also conducts with a sure instinct, discernment and self-effacing maturity that continue to mark him out as out of the most naturally gifted young talents around.”
– The Classical Review
“The series of Sibelius symphonies from Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen has been consistently worthwhile, with fresh readings from the conductor and fine efforts from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The good news continues with this pairing of the final two symphonies…”
“The Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud gives a masterly performance of both concertos, warm and powerful, with a confident, wide vibrato and immaculate intonation. The recording has exceptional weight and fullness: at Naxos price the disc is an astonishing bargain.”
Music for the stage
“Segerstam directs with his customary big heart and acute sensitivity for texture and mood. Soprano Pia Pajala makes a heady thing of Elsa’s song ‘Eilaa, eilaa’, while Torikka’s lustrous timbre sent shivers down my spine in ‘Paavali’s Song’.” – Gramophone
“Segerstam has his Turku Philharmonic playing with both idiomatic, long-focused energy and poignant understatement…” – The Guardian
“A must-have release for Sibelius lovers, and an unexpected pleasure for anybody.”
“A genuinely rewarding achievement…”
“…the performances are simply as fine as they can be. The two ladies sing well [and] the whole production is sumptuously recorded… Classy.” – ClassicsToday.com
“Leif Segerstam reveals the originality of Sibelius’s beautiful Pelléas and Mélisande and shows with much electrifying tension what a masterpiece it is.” – Pizzicato ★★★★★
“…Segerstam’s performance is gorgeous. It’s not often recalled that Segerstam was himself a violinist of considerable ability in his youth, and he pays a great deal of attention to the orchestral string sections in all of his recordings, to excellent effect.” – ClassicsToday.com
“Jedermann…could not receive a more dedicated or idiomatic performance than the one it receives here. Segerstam continues to impress as one of the best Sibelius conductors around and he is given a recording of depth and richness.” – MusicWeb International
“This is only the second recording of Sibelius’s Jedermann stage music. Segerstam gives an emotional and beautifully spirited account of it, well supported by committed soloists, choir singers and orchestra members.” – Pizzicato ★★★★★
Watch a video trailer for this release
Listen to an extract from Scaramouche:
Act 2 Scene 5
“The Norwegian pianist Håvard Gimse has consistent tonal beauty and unfailing musicianship. He is imaginative and has the kind of natural eloquence which allows the music to speak for itself yet still makes it sound fresh and unsentimental. This is distinguished playing and a strong recommendation at any price level.”
– Penguin Guide ★★★★
“Håvard Gimse ... is a talented pianist whose sense for nuance and lightness of touch seem perfectly attuned to this charming music. Naxos provides its usual excellent sound and fine notes.”
“In the earlier issues in this series that I have heard, Norwegian pianist Håvard Gimse has proved a sensitive and imaginative advocate of this repertoire and here he is at his distinguished best. A highly recommendable and rewarding issue.”
– BBC Music Magazine
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