WORKS: Karelia Overture Op.10; Karelia Suite Op. 11; En Saga Op. 9; The Swan of Tuonela Op. 22 No. 2; King Christian II Suite Op. 27
PERFORMER: New Finnish Symphony Orchestra/Jan Engström
CATALOGUE NO: PCD 1003. DDD
None of the pieces on this generously filled CD are newcomers to the catalogue, but the performances are well worth investing in, even at the risk of some duplication.
Jan Engström secures playing of extraordinary vigour from the NFSO. Above all, they project the unmistakable feeling that this music matters. There is a real sense of organic growth in the Karelia Overture, and the opening movement of the suite has a splendidly infectious swagger. Gritty string playing and a refusal to smooth off awkward edges produces a marvellously plangent intensity in the Ballad second movement of the Karelia Suite.
Some of these performances sound like concert recordings, and there are some alarming squeaks and rustles in En Saga. Perhaps this accounts for the immediacy of the performances.
Very little of this music is truly profound but Engström and his orchestra play with a finish and enthusiasm which repays careful listening. Jan Smaczny