Sibelius: Promotional Cantata; Song of the Earth, Op. 93; The Captive Queen, Op. 48

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Sibelius
WORKS: Promotional Cantata; Song of the Earth, Op. 93; The Captive Queen, Op. 48
PERFORMER: Helena Juntunen (soprano), JuhaHostikka (baritone); Dominante Choir;Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: BIS CD-1365

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BIS continues its exploration of Sibelius’s complete works and in this issue brings us some music that will be new even to dedicated Sibelians.

The Promotional Cantata for the University Graduation Ceremonies of 1894 sprang from obligation rather than inspiration, and in his Sibelius biography Tawaststjerna was somewhat dismissive (‘a banal homophonic choral piece’).

Listening to this disc I formed a more favourable view than I had before. Of course it is not top-drawer early Sibelius but there are imaginative touches and the overall effect is endearing. This recording differs from its two predecessors in including the third movement that was performed separately at the ceremony. It originally included a soprano part but this is lost. Its material anticipates ‘At the Drawbridge’ from the Second Set of Scènes historiques.

The Captive Queen was composed in the wake of the Second Symphony to which there is some allusion, and Song of the Earth – a somewhat lesser work – comes from the period of the Finnish civil war, when he was still working on the final version of the Fifth Symphony.

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The two Chorales are merely exercises that Sibelius did as a young student in Berlin and are totally uncharacteristic. The Processional draws on the Masonic Music of 1927 which the composer scored in 1938. Osmo Vänskä gets excellent results from the Lahti Orchestra and the Dominante Choir. The BIS recording and the notes by Andrew Barnett are excellent. Robert Layton