The complete cycle of Sibelius symphonies by Finnish conductor Leif Segerstam has gained wide acclaim as well as a few doubters who find the performances lacking in forward momentum. Even those objections can hardly be raised in the case of Sibelius' incidental music, where you're missing the original stage presentation, and a more detailed, expressive performance is desirable. Segerstam and the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, well recorded by Naxos in its own hall, come through in a pair of little-known theatrical scores here. The incidental music, much more conservative tonally and much more oriented toward pure melody, may seem to inhabit a different world from the symphonies, but the way the melodies depend on little turns of rhythm sets them apart from the music of Grieg, which they superficially resemble. The strength of Segerstam's reading is the way he defines these so clearly. Sample the first number of the chamber-sized incidental music for August Strindberg's Svanevit (Swanwhite), JS 189, of 1908, and you may well find yourself drawn into the whole. The score for Mikael Lybeck's The Lizard (1909) is a bit more expressionist in mood, and the album ends with two more genuine Sibelius rarities, settings of spoken poems. Ett ensamt skidspar (The Lonely Ski Trail), although premiered in 1948 and given that date here, was composed in the mid-1920s. Taken as a group, these are obscure Sibelius pieces for which Segerstam has made an excellent case for revival.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Svanevit (Swanwhite), Incidental Music, JS 189|
VII. harpan tystnar ett ögonblick och tar så upp en ny melodi (The harp falls briefly silent and strikes up a new melody) - Andantino
XIV. Alla böja knä som om de tackade och lovade (All bend their knees as if in thanks and praise) - Largamente molto
|Ödlan (The Lizard), Incidental Music, op. 8|