BBC Music Magazine: outstanding.
Given that this is the 72nd BIS title dedicated to Sibelius, ‘Seriously Sibelius’ might be interpreted as a reference to the label’s commitment to the Finnish master. There is, however, also a serious touch to the music on this disc, particularly the work which opens and closes it. The funeral march In memoriam, which is here presented in both its first and final versions, was inspired by the death of Eugen Schauman, who committed suicide after having assassinated Nikolai Bobrikov, the Russian governor-general of Finland, in 1904. The Two Serious Melodies, first published in versions for violin, are heard here in the cello versions that Sibelius made for a cellist friend, and which were used at the first performance of the pieces. Lemminkäinen in Tuonela (the third movement of the composer’s Lemminkäinen Suite, here in a reconstruction of the original 1896 version) also tells of grave matters: the violent death of a hero from the Finnish Kalevala legends, and his resurrection by magic. But the disc includes lighter moments as well, such as Humoresque No.1 (in its original version) and Valse chevaleresque, which at least the wife of Sibelius regarded – and therefore disliked – as a product of her husband’s late nights in Helsinki’s fashionable drinking establishments. The varied programme, which includes world premières, is performed with accustomed expertise and dedication by Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, aided by soloists Marko Ylönen and Jaakko Kuusisto, who have both appeared on a number of previous BIS recordings.
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