Sibelius: Pieces, Opp. 78, 81, 115 & 116; Danses champêtres

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Musical Soirée at Ainola
WORKS: Pieces, Opp. 78, 81, 115 & 116; Danses champêtres
PERFORMER: Pekka Kuusisto (violin), Heini Kärkäinen (piano)
This recital was recorded at Ainola, the villa Sibelius named after his wife at the time of the Third Symphony. The piano is the Steinway Sibelius was given for his 50th birthday in 1915, and its timbre sounds reasonably fresh and is expertly played here. Considering that this is recorded in a domestic environment, the sound, though dryish, is perfectly acceptable. Sibelius nurtured youthful ambitions to be a violinist and everything he composed for the instrument from the Concerto to the small miniatures on this disc shows how idiomatic was his writing. They cover the period from the first version of the Fifth Symphony (1915) through to 1929 before his thoughts turned in earnest to the projected Eighth. The ‘Romance’ from the Op. 78 set is a kind of Nordic Salut d’amour but the ‘Religioso’, a piece of simple dignity written for his brother Christian strikes a deeper note. Although they are slight these pieces all have charm and in the case of the first two numbers of Op. 115 an innocence that is appealing. Highly accomplished though he is, Pekka Kuusisto brings rather too sophisticated a range of dynamic shading to them and they lose something of their naturalness of utterance. He is not always content to let them speak for themselves. Robert Layton