I have already reviewed Volumes 1 & 3 of this series, the first for another web publication, and the latter here at ClassicalNet (Naxos 8.554814). I found both thoroughly enjoyable, each disc containing music of generally light moods performed expertly by Havard Gimse, a young Norwegian pianist who is busy building a successful international career.
Here, in Volume 4 of the series, the image of Sibelius as a composer who in his keyboard music sought out a sun-filled sanctuary from the darker, more serious scores he fashioned for orchestra holds true once again. The Op. 75 (The Trees) and the Op. 85 (The Flowers) sets of five pieces each are, as one would expect, pastoral evocations, less in an Impressionist vein, but more in a Griegian manner. Speaking of Grieg, most of the works here recall his moods, sometimes even his style, which arguably sometimes offered a sort of nascent Impressionism.
This Naxos disc runs 62:11 and contains thirty-three tracks, which gives you an idea not only about the length of the works, but, more importantly, about Sibelius' train of thought. His terse manner may reflect a sort of inspirational short attention span when it came to piano music. Indeed, the album is subtitled 'Piano Miniatures', but most of the composer's other piano works tend to be brief, too. Not that his keyboard music is inferior or short on invention – most is not just pleasant, but quite beautiful and lovely. Yet, it may be hard to take in large doses, unless you like light piano music.
As I have indicated above, Gimse plays it all brilliantly, and is fully at home with its lighter idiom. Naxos provides excellent sound and informative notes. Sibelius mavens and those with a preference for Grieg will likely find this entire series much to their taste.
Copyright © 2003, Robert Cummings