Sibelius: Overture in E; Väinö’s Song, Op. 110; Luonnotar, Op. 70; Scène de ballet; Impromptu, Op. 19 (original and final versions); Serenade

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Sibelius
WORKS: Overture in E; Väinö’s Song, Op. 110; Luonnotar, Op. 70; Scène de ballet; Impromptu, Op. 19 (original and final versions); Serenade
PERFORMER: Helena Juntunen (soprano), Tommi Hakala (baritone), Jyrki Korhonen (bass); Dominante Choir; Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1565
Yet another instalment in BIS’s monumental complete edition, again featuring Vänskä and his Lahti players, who now enjoy their own Sibelius festival. This disc, associated with Finland’s Spirit of Nature arts prize, features some of the composer’s finest yet lesser-known works, the orchestral songs. Perhaps the greatest is the Kalevala creation myth Luonnotar, with its starkly beautiful orchestral effects and radiant soprano line, previously recorded by Gwyneth Jones and Elizabeth Söderström, among others; Helena Juntunen’s glass-clear soprano, with the advantage of native Finnish, soars as beautifully as any, with Vänskä in airy support. He is contrastingly thunderous in the tragic ‘Kullervo’s Lament’, extracted from the Kullervo Symphony, majestically sung by Korhonen; but the darkly lyrical Serenade, with Tommy Hakala, Vänskä takes too slowly, dampening the melodic lilt which Jorma Panula and Jorma Hyninnen make so telling on BIS’s earlier collection. This features other major songs such as The Rapid-Rider’s Bride, whereas Vänskä here includes an assortment of choral and orchestral rarities. Some, like the early Overture and the late Väinö’s Song, a large-scale occasional piece, are fascinating, but others, like the two versions of Impromptu, rather less so. Nevertheless this is a splendidly fresh and poetic collection, easy to recommend. Michael Scott Rohan

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