Sibelius: En saga; Spring Song; The Bard; Tapiola; Kuolema (excerpts)

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: En saga; Spring Song; The Bard; Tapiola; Kuolema (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Gothenburg SO/Neeme Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 457 654-2
Over the years, Neeme Järvi has placed Sibelians deep in his debt. He recorded all these pieces way back in the Eighties with the Gothenburg orchestra, in their superb acoustic and with the fine recording team, whom DG have inherited here. The Bard is wonderfully inward and atmospheric in his hands, and there is a climax of commanding power. Tapiola is also a success: Järvi’s is a reading of thrilling intensity, excellently paced and with an unhurried (and consequently all the more terrifying) storm. Of the earlier pieces, En saga strikes me as less successful, indeed at times it seems almost matter-of-fact, save in the ruminative quieter section and in the closing paragraphs where Urban Claesson’s clarinet is poignant and evocative. The Spring Song also borders on the routine – as indeed does the music, which is not first-rate Sibelius. It needs very persuasive advocacy if it is to win the listener over. In the four pieces drawn from the incidental music to Kuolema, Järvi is completely on form. The ‘Canzonetta’ for strings and ‘Valse triste’ have great eloquence and poetry, as indeed do the atmospheric closing pages of ‘Scene with Cranes’. I find the wind at the opening too closely balanced, and generally speaking we are placed further forward in the hall than I care for. But this is a personal matter and there is no doubt as to the presence and truthfulness of DG’s sound. Karajan recorded Tapiola four times and his last 1984 account still remains in a class of its own. Robert Layton