Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite; Tapiola

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LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Lemminkäinen Suite; Tapiola
PERFORMER: Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam
Sibelius’s symphonic poems tend to capture atmosphere rather than tell a story. Segerstam is magnificent at building a feeling for the world of Finland’s national epic on which the four Lemminkäinen Legends are based. In addition to respecting the ample Wagnerisms in these early pieces, he points up the many pre-echoes of the mature symphonist. The swan in ‘Tuonela’ has not got the sweetest of voices, but the general image remains rewardingly vivid. Tapiola demands something more and, while orchestra and conductor have the music in their bones, I could have done with more symphonic fibre to take this performance of Sibelius’s ultimate masterpiece onto a higher plane. Where the Legends are concerned this remains a very tempting issue. Jan Smaczny