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Sibelius: Symphony No. 7; Pelleas Et Melisande; King Christi

Sibelius: Symphony No. 7; Pelleas Et Melisande; King Christi

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Fine performances, yes, but also a comprehensive, watertight Sibelius album to cherish.

Conductor Nicholas Collon began as the new Chief Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in September 2021. This all-Sibelius program, carefully selected by the conductor, is his debut album together with his new orchestra. Collon offers fresh and modern interpretation of Sibelius’ symphonic testament, the 7th Symphony, and brings to life the color and drama of Sibelius’ incidental music for two plays – Maeterlinck’s famous Pelléas et Mélisande and the historic King Christian II.

The Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (FRSO) is the orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle), and its mission is to produce and promote Finnish musical culture. The Radio Orchestra of ten players founded in 1927 grew to symphony orchestra proportions in the 1960s. Its Chief Conductors have been Toivo Haapanen, Nils-Eric Fougstedt, Paavo Berglund, Okko Kamu, Leif Segerstam, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Sakari Oramo, Hannu Lintu, and as of autumn 2021 Nicholas Collon. In addition to the great Classical-Romantic masterpieces, the latest contemporary music is a major item in the repertoire of the FRSO, which each year premieres a number of Yle commissions.

REVIEW:

This is a rooted performance of Sibelius’s last symphony from the first non-Finn to lead the orchestra of the Finnish Broadcasting Company, one with true gravitas but little grandstanding.

Everything is clear in Collon’s recording but the moving parts heave despite the sure momentum, giving the discourse a visceral edge. The slight burgeoning of each note in the trombone motto, which blossoms but is traced more than declaimed, is indicative of the bigger picture: careful, sure but unobtrusive phrasing that moves the music on while conveying, especially in the final pages, the wrenching strain that is the essential precursor to that final, pained C major. Laura Heikinheimo’s sound is ideal in conveying the sense of gravitational, inevitable progress.

‘Élégie’ from King Christian II and ‘The Death of Melisande’ from Pelleas and Melisande need a special tenderness and space and get it but there are numbers in which Collon sounds absorbed by Sibelius’s creation of miniature structural marvels. Rarely have I heard the ‘Nocturne’ from King Christian II come to fruition like a miniature Symphony No 2, nor its ‘Ballade’ sound like a little sister to Pohjola’s Daughter.

But this is theater music and Collon sacrifices no greasepaint in his pursuit of structural logic. Perhaps it’s the cool finesse of the FRSO woodwinds, in particular, that succeed in drawing us into a sense of collective history in the old dances and old instruments (or imitations thereof) that characterize the music for King Christian II. It takes considered playing and extreme focus to reflect the ambiguities and fleeting emptiness of Pelleas. The broad bow strokes of ‘At the Castle Gate’, the steady withdrawal of ‘The Death of Melisande’ and the sinister lapping of ‘At the Seashore’ all speak of musicians well inside this music and determined to think patiently about its particular colors. Fine performances, yes, but also a comprehensive, watertight Sibelius album to cherish.

-- Gramophone

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Ondine
    • UPC/Barcode: 761195140420
    • Item Number: ODE 1404-2