Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor;Karelia Suite; Belshazzar’s Feast Suite

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D minor;Karelia Suite; Belshazzar’s Feast Suite
PERFORMER: Pekka Kuusisto (violin); Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 878-2 DDD
Winner of last year’s International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, Pekka Kuusisto is special. A youthful player of old-time grandeur, his command of the beautifully sung phrase is eloquent, his feeling for high drama magnificent. He has a fabulous tone – with gutsy G string attack and floating ethereal sweetness. But what really places him apart is his extraordinary (entirely unforced) sense of time. He can shape slow music with a wonderful feeling of infinity, spinning a fantasy of dreams and exquisitely held nuances, catching notes and coaxing them to cry where others would leave them to speak. Recorded only in January, his Sibelius – masterful, emotionally sweeping and mature – is a knockout, with Segerstam providing an orchestral stillness and whiplash of tangibly electrifying presence. Here, you feel, is the real thing – an authentic chemistry of Finnish composer, soloist, conductor and producer, with wide dynamic ‘Scandinavian sound’ that is airy, harmonically resonant, yet razor-sharp in focus. (Great fillers, too.)

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By comparison Vadim Repin is less energised. A loose-tensioned player of incident rather than event, his Tchaikovsky says nothing new, while his Sibelius (slowersounding than Kuusisto’s, if paradoxically faster) rises only intermittently to the challenge.