Vol. 2 in BIS' complete Sibelius Edition is given over the Finnish master's chamber music for strings and for strings and piano. Fifty years earlier, this release would've included only the "Voces intimae" string quartet. But BIS' 2007 release includes all four quartets and all four piano trios, plus 35 other works or substantial fragments lasting between 13 seconds to 32 minutes. One thing is instantly clear: Sibelius scholarship has made enormous strides since the mid-twentieth century.
The vast majority of the music here will be of primary interest to the Sibelius scholar and the Sibelius completist. And while it may be rewarding to check out the teenage composer's chamber music, even those with an interest in him may eventually skip over the Allegro appassionato in C sharp minor for more substantive works. But it has to be acknowledged that a surprising amount of the music here has merit beyond the curiosity of juvenilia. The three early quartets won't likely match the mature "Voces intimae"'s expressive complexity, but they are fascinating works, especially in their approach to texture. And, while the four piano quartets lack some of the polish of the string quartets, they display a creative approach to a form that elevates them. Many of the shorter pieces, like the string quartet version of the late Andante festivo, are well worth hearing for fans of Sibelius' music. As always, BIS' digital sound is transparent.