Most of these '70s EMI recordings of orchestral music by Sibelius by Charles Groves and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have never been issued in America. But, then, most of Charles Groves recordings have never been issued in America. Although older listeners might recall his Delius recordings that were briefly popular in the mid-'70s, apparently EMI's American distributor did not believe that during the popular height of Mahler's visions of apocalyptic transfiguration domestic audiences would buy LPs entitled "The Lighter Sibelius" starting with Spring Song and including works entitled Romance, Dance Intermezzo, and Valse romantique.
Was the American market missing anything? For listeners who already know and love Sibelius' symphonies and tone poems and are looking for more austerely expressive and severely colorful orchestral music by Sibelius, the lighter Sibelius will disappoint. In Spring Song, as in Suite Mignonne, Suite champêtre, and Canzonetta, the stern Finnish master of the epic modern symphony is out to charm with nosegays of tunes he picked up while strolling his fields. And for listeners who want a taste of the Finnish master, there is his early Lemminkainen Suite, a four-movement symphonic poem on a Finnish myth, and his late Tempest Suites, 20-movement suites with a prelude on Shakespeare's play. From these recordings, it is difficult to tell if Groves is himself master of Sibelius. His Lemminkainen is more sound than fury and his Tempest is in a teacup, and neither signifies much more than nothing. And Groves' lighter Sibelius is so light as to be evanescent. Like life itself, it is over before you know it. EMI's '70s stereo sound is, like life itself, quite lovely.