Sibelius: The Tempest, Op. 109

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: The Tempest, Op. 109
PERFORMER: Lilli Paasikivi (mezzo-soprano), Kirsi Tiihonen (soprano), Anssi Hirvonen (tenor), Heikki Keinonen (baritone), Paavo Kerola (tenor); Lahti Opera Chorus, Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
CATALOGUE NO: CD 581 DDD
These days one doesn’t so often come across the two suites Sibelius put together from his incidental music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. All the more reason, then, to have this first recording of the complete, more than hour-long, score: originally written for a Danish production of 1926, with some modifications for performances in Helsinki the following year. The present disc, which forms part of BIS’s Complete Sibelius project, uses the latter version, with the vocal music – both solo and choral – sung in Finnish.

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Among his last compositions, the music for The Tempest is considered Sibelius’s best as well as most extensive theatre score. Perhaps inevitably, nearly all the real plums are in the suites; Beecham and, recently, Järvi offer them both. But some sequences of unfamiliar music are rewarding.

All the same, it would be idle to pretend that the complete score offers complete satisfaction on disc. It teems with mature Sibelian ideas, but few are seen through to any really musically satisfying conclusion; 25 of the 36 numbers recorded here last under two minutes.

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Performance and recording are competent rather than special: both vitality and definition are sometimes lacking. Good notes. Keith Potter