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Sibelius: Karelia, Tapiola, Les Oceanides, Valse Triste, etc. / Davis, London SO
Sir Colin Davis's outstanding series of Sibelius's symphonies for RCA continues with a program of the Finnish master's tone poems, which include some of his finest music. The late Tapiola, for example, is a brooding medita... more »
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Sir Colin Davis's outstanding series of Sibelius's symphonies for RCA continues with a program of the Finnish master's tone poems, which include some of his finest music. The late Tapiola, for example, is a brooding meditation on the mysteries of Scandinavia's vast forestlands, replete with harmonic ingenuity and imaginative orchestral colors. The early Karelia Suite charms, the familiar Finlandia bristles with patriotic fervor, and Davis makes the seductive Valse Triste sing its sad song with poignant restraint. Throughout the varied program, he captures the often chilly mysteries at the core of Sibelius's music. A very desirable release, made even more fetching by Tony Faulkner's lifelike engineering. --Dan Davis
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Sensitive,beautifully played & recorded performances
D. Roth | Pleasant Hill, Ca | 11/22/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finlandia lasts one minute more than Davis' 1976 Boston performance-remarkable in an eight minute work! It blazes less than before, but is incredibly heartfelt and very powerful. So the rest of the collection goes; Night Ride is pretty calm but seems more logical and essentially "Sibelian" than most other performances. The sound is both clear and full. Rather than sounding efficiently generic, the LSO produces crystalline textures and broadly powerful climaxes."
Finland's favorite son
Brett A. Kniess | Madison, WI | 04/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jean Sibelius, the favorite son of Finland, often wrote programmatic music using mythology, political themes, and scenic imagery of his homeland. This disk offers six such works spanning his entire career: Karalia Suite, The Oceanides, Finlandia, Valse Triste, Tapiola, and Nightride and Sunrise.
The 15-minute Karelia Suite is taken from a larger 50-minute work, a composition from Sibelius' youth. Karelia is the wide border between Finland and Russia, the center of the epic Finnish tale Kalevala, which Sibelius wrote an early choral symphony on. The three movements show youthful simplicity and classical tendencies: Intermezzo, a gentle march with distant horn calls, Ballade, a melancholy chorale with many textures, and March, a joyful and optimistic march, both gentile and nave. The Oceanides recall the sea-nymphs from the Kalevala myth, although this is also believed to have some root in Homeric mythology. At 11 minutes, light oscillating strings, a flute duet, 2 timpani, and 2 harps, slow harmonic rhythms, and the shimmering, Impressionistic qualities give the work a gentle feel. The most famous work, Finlandia, speaks of the repression of the Russian hold over Finland, but the hope of independence soon follows (which Finland got in 1917) with the famous chorale. Angry and dissonant brass and timpani open the work, surrounded by a menacing string melody. A rhythmic section is taken up, first gloomily, but a triumphant march, a peaceful chorale, and an exultant finale, conclude the Nationalistic work.
Valse Triste, 6 minutes, is a work meant to accompany a Finnish play entitled "Death"; dreaming of dancers and dancing, an old woman hears a knock...Death. This is a sad, slow waltz with long, languorous lines. The work becomes more and more up beat in tempo as time passes, nearly impassioned; but the work ends intimately, as the story suggests. Tapiola, a character from Kalevala, is the god of the forests. Described as "ancient, mysterious, brooding", loneliness...the 18 minute poem musically depicts just that. A mighty, heroic opening, almost fearful, dissonant and chromatic leads to a fantastical dance of the wood nymphs. An aggressive battle of magic progresses, with blazing brass, but all ends calmly in strings. Nightride and Sunrise tells of a man's night journey through a gloomy forest, a forest with strange sounds and foreboding, but eventually dawn appears, and the gloom is dispelled. The piece is infested with galloping strings, coming across various interruptions (counterpoint, polyrhythms, a long woodwind solo) that are somewhat scary. Visually, this is the most vivid, visually descriptive, and dramatic of the works.
Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra have received some flack for their series of Sibelius works on RCA Red Label. Suffice to say, this one works better than others. The interpretations are good, the tempo choices are intelligent, and the programming of the CD, offers a nice variety of music. The playing seems as if the ensemble was having an off day: odd wind timbres at times, brass tuning and balance are shifty in places, but the RCA recording features odd balances, favoring strings and brass. However, there are some great moments on this CD, and despite those recording issues, is a good CD. 77 minutes of neat, programmatic Sibelius music, dramatic and personal, especially his devotion to Finland, is genuinely portrayed here. Compare with his older recordings with the BSO."
mythologue | 09/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This disc features an eclectic group of works: on one hand, three well-known, instantly likeable compositions which serve as a nice introduction to the music of Jean Sibelius (Karelia suite, Finlandia, Valse triste); on the other, three elaborate and multi-layered pieces that, although not too hard to appreciate at first, reveal most of their secrets after several listens (Oceanides, Tapiola, Nightride and Sunrise). Davis obtains beautiful sonic textures from the LSO: this is one of those discs that beg to be listened to with headphones. The recording ends with the musical adventure that is Nightride and Sunrise - a piece which, even if you've listened to it many times, remains unpredictable. From the first minute to the last, this is an excellent disc."