Osmo Vänskä

Seriously Sibelius

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In seeking to record every single piece of music ever written by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the great Scandinavian classical label BIS has created a cottage industry for itself. Some of the previously unrecorded works have been revelations -- the original, more expansive Violin Concerto and the original, more mysterious Fifth were wonderful additions to the Sibelius canon -- but some of the unrecorded works have been of interest only to the most devoted of the composer's fans -- the March Triste for solo piano or the Scout March for full orchestra add nothing but more notes to Sibelius' oeuvre. Seriously Sibelius features the unstoppable Osmo Vänskä leading the Lahti Symphony and it is a case in point. Fans of the composer who just can't get enough of that Finnish stuff may be thrilled to hear the original longer versions of his funeral march In Memoriam or his tone poem Lemminkäinen in Tuonela. But how many of them will be more than passingly interested in hearing his transcription for string orchestra of the Presto from his very early B flat major String Quartet or his relatively late and almost wholly insipid Three Pieces for Orchestra including the drunken Valse chevaleresque? That question is for each listener to answer on his/her own. Naturally, Vänskä and the Lahti's performances are beyond reproach -- his feeling for Sibelius' idiom is unsurpassed and the symphony's ability to make beautiful music out of even his least significant pieces is unequaled -- and BIS' sound is likewise above criticism -- the clarity, warmth, and realism of the recordings is easily the equal of the best of the bigger labels.

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