Sibelius: Sonata in A minor; Suite in D minor; Five Pieces

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Sonata in A minor; Suite in D minor; Five Pieces
PERFORMER: Jaakko Kuusisto (violin), Folke Gräsbeck (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1022
Sibelius was highly sensitive about his early music and (save on one occasion) forbade both the performance and publication of such works as the early String Quartet, Op. 4, as well as the Kullervo Symphony. All the material recorded here is for his chosen instrument, the violin, and is completely new. None has been publicly performed, let alone recorded, until the present artists played them last year. We have known about them solely from John Rosas’s pioneering study of the early Sixties and the first volume of Erik Tawaststjerna’s biography, but most of Sibelius’s unpublished juvenilia are a closed book, though they were at least listed in the most recent edition of my Master Musicians volume.

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The A minor Sonata with its echoes of early Beethoven, comes from his school years, and the Suite in D minor (1887-8) shows just how naturally fluent and idiomatic his writing for the violin was even then. Even if it remains derivative, the first movement is captivating and offers glimpses of things to come. The composer was, it seems, sufficiently taken with it to show it to his first biographer, Erik Furuhjelm. The performances here are most expert and accomplished in every way and the sleeve annotation by Folke Gräsbeck is both detailed and scholarly. Very good, well-balanced recorded sound. Robert Layton