Spirit of Nature, the title of this disc of songs, cantatas, and orchestral works by Sibelius, may at first seem more than a bit misleading. After all, only a handful of the works on this disc deal directly with nature while the rest are on the standard fin de siècle subjects of life, love, and lust. But, since all the music is by Sibelius, perhaps the greatest nature loving -- nay, nature intoxicated -- composer of the period, every note is deeply informed by the spirit of nature. True, that love may be harder to detect in the early Overture in E major or Scéne de Ballet than in the later masterpiece Luonnotar, but the throbbing life, the burgeoning energy, the sense of mystical communion with forces greater than oneself are felt in every note.
But be the title what it may, this disc will still be mandatory listening for anyone in love with the music of Sibelius. For one thing, it has the magisterial Osmo Vänskä leading the brilliant Lahti Symphony, and anyone who already knows their ecstatic, enigmatic, and exalted recordings of Sibelius' symphonies will know what to expect here: superb playing, inspiring conducting, and a feel for the music that few other conductors can match. For another and, in its way a much more important thing, it has world-premiere recordings of five works, and while none of them will change the course of the ocean currents, for those who love the music of Sibelius, the chance to hear new music by the master will be irresistible, particularly in BIS' utterly natural and wholly amazing super audio sound.