The Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013

Lahti Sibelius Festival 2013

“Legends, a Tempest and an Oriental Feast at the Sibelius Festival”

So goes the webpage of the 14th International Sibelius Festival of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, which will run from 5 – 8 September 2013, at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland.

Without further ado, here is the programme:

Thursday, 5 September
Musik zu einer Scène
Pelléas et Mélisande, concert suite
Scène de Ballet
King Christian II, concert suite
Cortège

Friday, 6 September
Kuolema (Death), original score
The Tempest, original score

Saturday, 7 September
Karelia Overture
Wedding March from Die Sprache der Vögel (The Language of the Birds)
Belshazzar’s Feast, concert suite
Lemminkäinen Suite

The chamber/ensemble programme for Saturday and Sunday are not yet confirmed. The above info comes courtesy of Andrew Barnett of the United Kingdom Sibelius Society, authority 100% certified.

It is a very very colourful programme, featuring Sibelius from almost every known angle. Regrettably, I probably will not be able to attend this year. Limited finances is cause, period.

What shall I most miss? Without doubt, it will be the complete score of The Tempest, which contain some truly wonderful music. Music that is pleasantly sylvan, pastoral elegance, as well as fearsome orchestral storms and some of Sibelius’ advanced sounds. Among these, I am most emotionally attached to the absolute final piece in the Tempest music, the Ossia – Epilogue.  As I have written before in my post called Sibelius’ Farewell – Thoughts on Sibelius’ Silence and Dilemma, Prospero’s Art, and Shakespeare’s Final Play – at 1 minute, 20 seconds long, its resonant nostalgia is utterly heartbreaking, and breathtakingly brief.

If you don’t already own this (note that it is NOT part of The Tempest SUITES) in one form or another, allow me to show you this old YouTube contribution of mine:

 

For these 80 seconds of melancholia alone would I go for this year’s festival.

Please visit http://www.sinfonialahti.fi/sibelius/en_GB/sibelius for information on ticketing for the Lahti Sibelius Festival and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.

 

Sibelius’ Farewell: Ossia – Prospero’s Epilogue from The Tempest

I’ve finally completed my second music video. Sibelius of course. Like my first little experiment, it deliberately highlights a lesser-known work, from the very end of Sibelius’ incidental music for The Tempest, Op.109. This little project has been in my head for more than half a year, and I’m relieved that it is done.

In Shakespeare’s final play The Tempest (1610-1611), the great magician Prospero steps out once more after the tale is done, to speak to the audience. His famous Epilogue is often interpreted as Shakespeare’s own farewell to the world of drama, The Tempest being his last play. Prospero beseeches the audience to set him free of his obligations, and allow him to retire his magic. If he clings on to the art, his ending would be despair. Think Spiderman, “With great power…”
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Icelandic Sibelius – Symphony No.2 & Tempest Suite No.1 (Naxos)

Symphony No.2 in D major, op.43
The Tempest: Suite No.1, op.109/2

Iceland Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Petri Sakari

NAXOS 8.554266 (Details)
[68:08] budget-price

An original Inkpot review by The Inkpot Sibelius Nutcase™

What I like about this reading of the Second Symphony is its tightly driven energy, the no-nonsense blazing brass of the first movement, coupled with confidence and power. Sakari has an admirable measure of the surge and the ebb, the flow and the outburst of the symphony. The Andante has no lack of atmosphere; the opening pizzicato “walk” is not as mysterious as some other accounts, but makes up for it with the aforementioned sense of confidence, and attention to detail without being too deliberate. I enjoyed the slow unveiling of the woodwind episodes after the brassy tumult, the chilly rock-hewned power of the Icelandic brass (what gorgeous trumpets – and listen for their diminuendi), and the solemn-heroic build towards the end.

The pacing of the Vivacissimo is excellent, neither too fast or slow. At 6:17 it is on the long side, but I enjoyed the slick drama that the Icelanders churn from the score. Even more impressive is the bridging to the finale – very well done indeed, without a wisp of too much hesitation or too little breathtaking anticipation, the Icelanders slip into the rising theme with calm nobility. The trombones pulsate nicely, the woodwind pedals are leveled just right in the background, while the trumpets thrust their fanfare with flawless magnificence in both their big appearances. The horns deserve mention too for making good their support.

The swirling storm that leads to the final coda is not exactly the most powerful, most stormy one I’ve heard. Though I am impressed by the work put in by the woodwinds at the top of the score, the overall picture is slightly wanting in that final ounce of relentlessness, of that feeling of heroic defiance that gives this work such a patriotic ring. Nevertheless, this is not a bad reading at all. In fact, the coda itself is satisfyingly majestic, with brass rising even higher and louder than before, blazing above each other in triumph. The full D major glory of the final chords are savoured with great relish.

* * * * *

The coupling of the First Suite from The Tempest is a little odd and unusual, the work coming from the end of Sibelius’ known orchestral output, whereas the symphony is among his first. It makes a great contrast, especially the magical aura of The Oak Tree (and Ariel’s Song), to which the chilly sounds of the Icelanders do good justice to, if not as sorcerous as Segerstam’s account on Ondine.

The Humoresque is ably done, though I’ve heard more liquid playing from other clarinettists. The orchestra sings Caliban’s Song with ample colour and drama, loudmouthed and lurid (It’s quite hard to get this piece wrong, so far in my listening experience); and is then repeated gruesomely in the middle of the Scène. I greatly enjoyed the pulse and flow of this performance of The Harvesters. The little details are really nice – the quiet snare drum, the field of floating strings, the harp, flute – all add up to a very picturesque tone painting.

Strangely, in The Storm, the recording (or is it the conductor?) gives great prominence to the brass, somewhat downplaying the turbulence of the strings. At other times, the lower brass (as in that rising series of chords) is drowned. In all, a committed performance, but sonically the result is too blocky, too opaque. The Naxos sound isn’t really very transparent, which may be at fault.

My recent “live” encounter with some of this music has made me realise the extent that contrast plays a part in The Tempest. One particular example is the Intrada-Berceuse. Here, I think Sakari doesn’t quite put in enough thrust into the shattering blows of the Intrada, though it is not ineffective. The gentle Berceuse itself receives a fine interpretation, with strings sounding timid and restrained, almost emasculated.

Overall, excellent performances of the symphony and most of the Suite and a worthy successor to the previous release of Symphonies Nos.1 and 3 (reviewed here). If you need a recording of No.2, you can safely invest in this, which comes with the bonus of The Tempest (if incomplete). But if the latter interests you more than the former, go for the Ondine/Segerstam and the complete theatre score recorded on BIS (detailed here).

Sibelius’ Farewell

Thoughts on Sibelius’ Silence and Dilemma, Prospero’s Art, and Shakespeare’s Final Play.

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

Continue reading Sibelius’ Farewell