Diapason d'or de l'année -
Diapason d'or / Arte
The BIS label's Sibelius series, presenting the composer's orchestral music under the batons of Osma Vänskä and then Okko Kamu, has been uniformly excellent. Like other releases in the series, this one was recorded at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland, which, though recent, seems as though it was custom designed for his music in the clarity with which it reproduces the variety of textures in the upper registers of the strings. The moderate-sized Lahti Symphony Orchestra is a gem. Is there another city of 100,000 anywhere in the world that has reached this level of accomplishment? Listeners used to mighty English or German readings of Sibelius might find the orchestra a bit quiet, but, especially in a work like Sibelius' incidental music for The Tempest, Op. 109. Vividness of texture is more important than power, and Kamu and the Lahti orchestra provide that in abundance. Sibelius was one of the last major composers to write incidental music for plays, the direct ancestor of modern film music, and The Tempest was written for a 1925 performance of Shakespeare's play in Denmark and then turned into an overture and a pair of contrasting suites by the composer. All three are offered here, and it's hard for anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the play not to think of Shakespeare's words describing storms and enchanted isles on hearing this disc. The more extended structures of Sibelius' last major tone poem, Tapiola, Op. 112, are handled with the same absolute skill here, and in the middle comes a lesser-known tone poem, The Bard, Op. 64, with a big climax that gives the orchestra's brasses a chance for sustained display. This album is, on every front, very hard to beat, for Sibelius lovers and newbies alike.