The Very Best of Sibelius

The Very Best of Sibelius


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Compiling a best-of release for Jean Sibelius is difficult, perhaps even more difficult than for other composers of his era. This is because Sibelius had several distinct styles, and a largely different audience to go with each one. Those who immerse themselves in the intense gloom of the "Symphony No. 4" have little use for the triumphant strains of "Finlandia" or the finale of the "Symphony No. 2" that came close, the local composers having nothing on hand that would quite fill the bill, to becoming an anthem for World War II-era Britain. And Sibelius as a miniaturist had an entirely different outlook from Sibelius as a symphonist. For some listeners he is a lyrical Scandinavian melodist in the mold of Grieg. There are still other Sibeliuses; in his discovery of Finnish epic literature he drew on Wagner's ways of dealing with similar material. This two-disc set from Naxos does a fine job under the circumstances, with good introductions to all the facets of the composer's style. The best-of format works worst in the cases of symphonists whose forms are organic, and one misses the bleak "Symphony No. 4" and the beautifully constructed "Symphony No. 7." Nevertheless, the famous Sibelius symphonic excerpts are all here, and restricting the selection to those gives the compilers a chance to get into more unusual orchestral material: the "Suite No. 2" from the "Incidental Music for Shakespeare's The Tempest, Op. 109"; the early "En Saga, Op. 9"; and some big hits: "Finlandia," the "Valse Triste," and the "Karelia Suite." There are short solo piano pieces, two songs, not only the "Violin Concerto, Op. 47," but also the lesser-known "Romance, Op. 42." The selections, drawn from the vast Naxos catalog of performances by Scandinavian and Eastern European groups, are nowhere less than workmanlike, and the program has the effect of constantly revealing something new but still holding together -- exactly what is desirable in a release of this kind, and exactly what is hard to pull off with Sibelius.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/31/2006
Label: Naxos
UPC: 0730099213523
catalogNumber: 8552135
Rank: 85868


  1. Pelléas et Mélisande, incidental music for orchestra, Op. 46: Prelude to Act 1 Scene 1. "At the Castle Gate"
  2. Kyllikki, lyric pieces (3) for piano, Op. 41: Comodo
  3. The Oceanides (Aallottaret), tone poem for orchestra, Op. 73
  4. Andante Festivo, for string orchestra (arranged from string quartet version)
  5. Songs (6) for voice & piano, Op. 36: 4. Reed, reed, rustle
  6. Valse Triste, for orchestra (from Kuolema), Op. 44/1
  7. Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82: 3. Allegro molto
  8. Romance, for string orchestra in C major, Op. 42
  9. Pohjola's Daughter (Pohjolan tytär), symphonic fantasy for orchestra, Op. 49
  10. Finlandia, tone poem for orchestra, Op. 26
  11. Karelia Suite, for orchestra, Op. 11: 1. Intermezzo
  12. Karelia Suite, for orchestra, Op. 11: 3. Alla marcia
  13. Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47: 2. Adagio di molto
  14. En Saga, tone poem for orchestra, Op. 9
  15. Songs (7) for voice & piano, Op. 17: 6. To Evening
  16. The Tempest: Suite No. 2, for orchestra, Op. 109/3: 3. Dance of the Nymphs
  17. Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39: 3. Scherzo (Allegro)
  18. Lemminkäinen Suite: Four Legends from the Kalevala, for orchestra, Op. 22: The Swan of Tuonela
  19. Pieces (5) for piano ("The Flowers"), Op. 85: 2. Carnation
  20. Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: 4. Finale

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