Sibelius: Cantata for the Conferment Ceremony of 1894; Coronation Cantata; Finlandia

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
WORKS: Cantata for the Conferment Ceremony of 1894; Coronation Cantata; Finlandia
PERFORMER: Soile Isokoski (soprano), Jaakko Kortekangas (baritone); Finnish Philharmonic Choir, Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 936-2
In this issue interest naturally centres on the two cantatas which are new to the repertoire. Only two sections of the Academic Cantata or ‘Cantata for the Conferment Ceremony of 1894’ survive. The orchestral parts of a third exist but not the soprano solo part. (It would seem that it was performed quite separately at the ceremony itself.) In the first volume of his Sibelius biography Erik Tawaststjerna dismissed it as ‘a banal, homophonic choral piece’, and, as usual, he is on target, even though there are occasional glimpses in the orchestral writing of the composer of The Wood Nymph.

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The Coronation Cantata has not been heard since its first performance in 1896, occasioned by the accession to the throne of Tsar Nicholas II, which brought in its train an altogether harsher and more oppressive political climate. By Sibelius’s exalted standards (this is after all the period of the Lemminkäinen Legends), inspiration is pretty thin though there are some characteristically individual touches in the Allegro movement. Soile Isokoski and Jaakko Kortekangas are excellent soloists and the performances generally are admirable. Segerstam gives a very convincing account of Finlandia and the other two pieces, and Ondine’s recording team serves them well. Robert Layton