Sibelius: Piano Music, Vol. 5

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Piano Music, Vol. 5
PERFORMER: Hårvard Gimse (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555853
As with Dvorák’s, Sibelius’s piano music rarely appears in the concert hall, so completely is it overshadowed by the symphonies. All the pieces recorded here come from the 1920s, the period of the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, and are rarities. Among the finest are the Five Sketches, Op. 114, which come from the very end of the decade and are among his last published works. They may be slight but they are highly individual and have great finesse. ‘Village Church’ from the Five Characteristic Impressions has overtones of the Andante festivo for strings and ‘The Oarsman’ seems to ruminate on ideas in the Seventh Symphony. Sibelius’s piano writing may have evoked little enthusiasm during his lifetime and it is true that by the exalted standards he set elsewhere, it is limited in resource and scale. But pieces like ‘In Mournful Mood’ and ‘Landscape’ from Op. 114 are curiously haunting – the set’s neglect has been our loss. In the earlier issues in this series that I have heard, the 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. Robert Layton

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