Jean Sibelius is known as a great symphonist but he was also a highly skilled and prolific miniaturist who produced short, often aphoristic pieces throughout his life. Although less well-known than his orchestral works, his output for the piano is extensive, and we can now present the second instalment of music for solo piano in the BIS Sibelius Edition. Its predecessor, released as Volume 4 of the edition, presented the piano music that Sibelius composed during his youth and in his national romantic period. The music on this second set was written between 1905 and 1931, and includes the Three Sonatinas, widely seen as some of Sibelius's finest piano works, as well as the five pieces from the composer's Op.75, commonly known as 'The Trees'. Among the several world première recordings in this collection we find an Adagio written for his wife Aino's birthday in 1931, Sibelius's last composition for piano - and his only one for piano four-hands. 'Rakkalle Ainolle' ('To My Beloved Aino') is a mysterious piece, almost devoid of melody as such, but with an astonishingly bold tonal language: might this have been the style of the composer's Eighth Symphony, by then approaching completion and later reportedly destroyed by the composer? Included are also a number of Sibelius' own transcriptions, mainly of music he had composed for stage performances of plays such as Pelléas et Mélisande. A special case in this category is the four minute long reworking for the piano of an original bell melody written in 1912 for Helsinki's newly built Kallio Church. Presenting these close to 6 hours of music is Folke Gräsbeck, who himself has searched the archives, comparing versions and looking for previously unknown pieces. His commitment to the music of Sibelius is close to legendary, and on the basis of the previous volume of piano music alone, his achievement has been described as 'nothing less than heroic' (American Record Guide). Another reviewer, in the magazine Pizzicato, has described his performances as 'both musically and technically impressive; fresh and lively, and with a marked feeling for the dramatic potential of each work.'
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