The incidental music Sibelius wrote for Shakespeare's The Tempest contain some fine music -- but the orchestral suites he drew from the music are decidedly second-rate. For the suites, Sibelius reordered, reorchestrated, and in some cases rewrote the music from the whole complement of music to accompany the play. He left out all the vocal music for these orchestral suites. In its original version, however, with all the music intact and in the right order, the complete Incidental Music for The Tempest is the best score Sibelius wrote for the stage.
Of course, this didn't really become clear until the release of this recording of the complete work by Jukka-Pekka Saraste and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, with the Festival Chorus and five of Scandanavia's best singers. Saraste characterizes each movement brilliantly but still holds the whole work together. The orchestra plays superbly and with deep conviction. The chorus is fantastic; their Chorus of the Winds is incredibly evocative and even spooky. The singers are all good, but Monica Groop as Ariel and Jorma Hynninen as Caliban are particularly magnificent. Ondine's sound is terrific, and even the liner notes are first-rate.