These two generously filled and splendidly documented CDs bring a lifetime of Sibelius listening full circle. My earliest familiarity with his music was from the 78s of Kajanus and, later, Beecham's recordings. I have listened with enormous pleasure to this Naxos Historical CD. The exact sound sound of the cello rising from the depths to launch the austere Symphony No 4, followed soon by the thrilling brass crescendi, lives indelibly printed on my memory, and comes up on Mark Obert-Thorn's transfer sounding even more wonderful than I remember it on wind-up gramophones – the years roll back! Only £5 (or dollar equivalent) – do buy it; this is the real thing. As a bonus you get the lovely, rarely heard The Bard, and authentic accounts of more popular tone poems. But you will want to play the symphony again and again.
Osmo Vänskä and his Lahti orchestra have completed their Complete Sibelius for BIS with this Volume 51. Fine modern performances, mostly world premières. Far from being a collection of oddments, this is an important and vastly enjoyable collection of works which will be mainly unfamiliar, some of them minor, but all with the composer's true and instantly recognisable stamp. We have only recently come to appreciate that every published score is a statement of its moment of time, and that earlier (or later) versions of familiar mastepieces may be equally worthy of attention. These three workings of material which became The Oceanides make for a rewarding lesson for which we must be grateful.
Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf