Sibelius: Kuolema, King Christian II & More / Segerstam, Turku Philharmonic

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It has become trendy to play Sibelius’ incidental scores more or less complete, rather than as he revised isolated numbers or grouped them into suites. I am not personally convinced that this is wise; Sibelius knew what he was doing, but it very much depends on the score. King Christian II works perfectly well, and the single vocal number, “Fool’s Song of The Spider,” has plenty of character. The music itself includes some of the most gloriously lyrical moments in all of Sibelius, especially when the Nocturne is as sumptuously played as it is here.

Kuolema (“Death”) gave us the Valse triste, played with hypnotic slowness Segerstam and the Turku strings. The remainder of the score strikes me frankly as dull, at least until we get to the last couple of movements, where things perk up (at least a bit). The Two Songs from Twelfth Night are well sung by baritone Waltteri Torikka, and very atmospheric. Texts and translations are also included in the booklet–not something to be taken for granted these days. Finally, the Overture in A minor is a brief chip off of the workbench that Sibelius threw together for the premiere of the Second Symphony. It’s fun, and typically Sibelius, but the music goes nowhere and ends very oddly.

Segerstam’s conducting, as you might have noticed, is lovingly shaped, occasionally a bit slow, but always attentive the music’s colors and moods. The engineering is odd though: the brass at the start of the Overture are backwardly placed, and the strings have a metallic edge. Still, if you haven’t already sprung for the BIS complete edition, this disc offers a sensible way to plug a few gaps in your Sibelius collection.

– David Hurwitz,

These are two exceptional Sibelius discs containing a number of rarities coupled with performances of Kuolema, King Kristian II and Belshazzar’s Feast that are as good as any available. I hope that Naxos will continue with further instalments from this team of superb Sibelians.

– John Whitmore, MusicWeb International, reviewing this disc and another

"Segerstam has his Turku Philharmonic playing with both idiomatic, long-focused energy and poignant understatement; the first movement of the music for Järnefelt’s play Kuolema, later published separately as the Valse Triste, has rarely waltzed as sadly or as profoundly as this. The music for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II centres on an expansive and genial Nocturne that sounds almost cinematic." – The Guardian (UK)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 09, 2015

  • Catalog Number: 8573299

  • UPC: 747313329977

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Late Romantic

  • Composer: Jean Sibelius

  • Conductor: Leif Segerstam

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Turku Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Waltteri Torikka