Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

For the past five years or so I've posted reviews of classical music CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, in various places on the web: Amazon.com, iTunes and other sites. I'll collect those earlier reviews, and add four or five new ones every month.

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Monday, November 2, 2015

A fine disc in an important series

From September 30, 2015:


This is the third of a series of six discs of less familiar Sibelius orchestral music that Naxos will be releasing in 2015, featuring the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leif Segerstam. The first two - Kuolema & King Christian II followed by Belshazzar’s Feast - were highly praised, though some of Sibelius’s minor works included on each disc came in for some serious criticism. I’ve heard it said that Sibelius was among the most inconsistent of the great composers, and some of the less important works in this series demonstrate this. The problem isn’t that these smaller bits of music aren’t substantial, but that they’re not as well designed and polished as the best light music, by composers like Johann Strauss Jr or Eric Coates. Of course, it’s the greatness of his finest works that brings the weakness of these trifles into such sharp relief, and this disc contains a very fine work indeed.

The incidental music to Maeterlinck’s play Pelleas et Melisande was written in 1904, between the time of the 2nd and 3rd symphonies, and while it serves its purpose in support of the stage play very well, it has the emotional power and dramatic scope of the symphonies. This is the complete incidental music, rather than the more often performed suite, which includes 10 pieces rather than 9. This is a really excellent performance, by Finland’s oldest orchestra, led by one of the greatest interpreters of Sibelius. I wish I could attend their Sibelius Symphony marathon in Turku in December 2015, but I’ll have to make do with this series of CDs.

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