Sibelius: Karelia Music (compl. Jouni Kaipainen); Press Celebrations Music

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Karelia Music (compl. Jouni Kaipainen); Press Celebrations Music
PERFORMER: Tellu Virkkala, Anna-Kaisa Liedes (soprano), Juha Kotilainen (baritone)Tampere PO & Choir/Tuomas Ollila
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 913-2
The Karelia Suite needs no introduction, but the extensive sequence of incidental music from which Sibelius selected its three movements is quite unknown. Jouni Kaipainen’s reconstruction of Sibelius’s original music of 1893, written to accompany a set of historical tableaux and a huge success at its premiere, is a revelation. These movements have the infectious impetus of the early Kullervo symphony, and at times an almost Wagnerian sweep. Tuomas Ollila’s performance is fresh and vivid with a strong feeling for the music’s intrinsically dramatic qualities – renditions for the stage rather than the concert hall; the result is a lustrous context for the three well-known movements of the Karelia Suite in which they shine all the more brightly.

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The Press Celebrations Music, which includes the original version of Finlandia, is less unified, but in its way equally fascinating. This is music of protest, and the sense of anger at the injustice of Russian domination adds greatly to the concluding performance of Finlandia; this finale originally accompanied a tableau comprising the great figures of Finland’s national awakening, including, amazingly enough, a locomotive. The energy and commitment of the performances along with the genuine novelty of the material will make this compulsory listening for any admirer of Sibelius.