Sibelius: 10 Pieces, Op. 58; March of the Finnish Jaeger Battalion; 13 Pieces, Op. 76; Rondinos, Op. 68; Little Pieces, Op. 34

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: 10 Pieces, Op. 58; March of the Finnish Jaeger Battalion; 13 Pieces, Op. 76; Rondinos, Op. 68; Little Pieces, Op. 34
PERFORMER: Olli Mustonen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1014-2
Sibelius’s piano-writing had a poor press during his lifetime and it is true that, by the exalted standards he set elsewhere, it is limited in resource and scale. The sonatinas enjoyed the advocacy of Wilhelm Kempff and Glenn Gould, and whatever reservations one might have, Gould’s verdict that Sibelius ‘never wrote against the grain of the keyboard’ stands. His contemporary, Selim Palmgren, who wrote very idiomatically for the piano, got it exactly right when he said that ‘even in what for him were alien regions, he moves with an unfailing responsiveness to tone colour’. And so does the gifted Olli Mustonen, who makes the most of tonal and colouristic refinement (in, say, the Scriabinesque ‘Rêverie’ of Op. 58), and leaves us in no doubt of his strong personality in this intelligently chosen anthology. Some may find his staccato articulation exaggerated and a bit too self-aware. While there is a lot to admire in the way of pianistic finesse, some of the attention-seeking expressive effects are intrusive. Indeed the longer I listened, the more self-regarding his playing seemed. Symptomatically, the cover prints the pianist’s name in larger type than the composer’s and the booklet and presentation gives us four pictures of him against one of Sibelius. Robert Layton

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