Sibelius: Pelléas and Mélisande Suite; Cassazione; Presto; Suite mignonne; Suite champêtre; Suite caractéristique

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Pelléas and Mélisande Suite; Cassazione; Presto; Suite mignonne; Suite champêtre; Suite caractéristique
PERFORMER: Tapiola Sinfonietta/Tuomas Ollila
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 952-2
A good but not generously filled disc. The Cassazione is much later than its single-figure opus number implies. You would think it comes from the period of Kullervo or En saga (Opp. 7 and 9 respectively), but in fact it is from 1904, the same year as the first version of the Violin Concerto. Sibelius was never satisfied with it, revised it the following year and put it aside pending a further overhaul. There are good and characteristic moments and even reminders of the Pelléas music, also from 1905; an idea for two clarinets anticipates ‘The Three Blind Sisters’. There is also a hymn-like motif on the strings, to which he returned in the Epilogue to the 1927 Helsinki production of The Tempest. It is very well played by the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Tuomas Ollila, as are the three miniature suites from 1921-2, which have a lot of charm in his hands. These are as persuasive as any I have heard. There is some equally sensitive playing in the suite from Pelléas and Mélisande but I find the tempo in both the ‘Entr’acte’ and ‘Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel’ too rushed for comfort. The Presto, an arrangement of a quartet movement from the 1890s, is also something of a scramble. The recording is first class, but for all its very considerable merits, the Pelléas is no match for the Beecham, Karajan or the beautifully recorded Vänskä version, and Neeme Järvi’s account of the Cassazione on BIS is every bit as elegant. Robert Layton

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