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Sibelius: Karelia Suite; Rakastava; Lemminkainen

Sibelius: Karelia Suite; Rakastava; Lemminkainen

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The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra can with justification be regarded as ‘Sibelius’s own orchestra’, as it was this orchestra, usually conducted by the composer, that premièred most of his major works. On this disc of three such pieces, the orchestra is conducted by Susanna Malkki; the recording follows on from their three acclaimed albums devoted to the music of Bartók.

Although they were all later revised, the three works on this recording all originated within a very short period in Sibelius’s career: the years 1893–96, a time when he was beginning to establish himself as a composer and a time of national awakening.

One of his most popular works, the Karelia Suite is drawn from a series of tableaux that evoked events in the history of Karelia, the region where Finland and Russia meet. In late 19th-century Finland, the promotion of Karelian folk culture was both fashionable and politically relevant. The short suite Rakastava [The Lover] is a subtle reworking of a work for male voices based on lyrical poems from the collection Kanteletar; Sibelius often conducted it in concert. Sibelius often drew inspiration from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, and episodes from this poem provide the subject matter of Lemminkainen, a substantial four-movement suite (including the captivating Swan of Tuonela) that recounts the adventures of a daredevil hero, a sort of Nordic Don Juan.


Mälkki and the orchestra remarkably conjure the dark, swirling soundworld of ‘Lemminkäinen in Tuonela’ (the Hades of Finnish legend). And the concluding ‘Lemminkäinen’s Return’ canters along in roistering style.

-- BBC Music Magazine

Susanna Mälkki and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra produce wellcrafted, beautifully detailed accounts on a par with rival versions – including the Helsinki orchestra’s own with Segerstam (with warm Ondine sound) from the mid-1990s.

-- Gramophone

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Product Description:

  • Release Date: February 16, 2024

  • UPC: 7318599926384

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2638

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Jean Sibelius

  • Conductor: Susanna Malkki

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

  • Performer: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra