Jean Sibelius is perhaps best known for his seven great symphonies but there is also a large body of music for the concert hall, the theatre, and the salon, some of which is explored in this release. The Violin Concerto in D minor, Sibelius’s only full-length concerto, marries brilliantly idiomatic writing for the solo instrument with the seriousness characteristic of the symphonies. Intensely virtuosic, it is both a dramatic and a deeply romantic work. The Swan of Tuonela comes from the suite of four Lemminkäinen Legends, inspired by traditional Finnish myths. In it the majestic motion of the swan is evoked by the arching phrases of the cor anglais. Also featured are two well-known shorter works indelibly linked with Finnish identity. Finlandia became a national emblem of the Finnish struggle for independence from Russia while Andante festivo is a staple of Finnish public occasions. The Karelia Suite is another patriotic work, the rough-hewn character of its three movements intended to evoke a folk-like authenticity.
Sir Andrew Davis continues his relationship with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in this their third recording together on Chandos. They are joined in the Violin Concerto by Jennifer Pike, one of the brightest young violinists performing today.
“…Jennifer Pike’s account stresses beauty of tone, with elegant phrasing and a smooth, precise technique that makes light of all the virtuoso challenges. She benefits from exceptional recording quality, the violin in natural balance with an accompaniment whose individual instrumental colours appear clearly within the spacious ambience … the Bergen recording brings together an attractive programme of popular Sibelius works, directed by Sir Andrew Davis with a sure touch – firm, poised rhythms, sensitive control of balance and texture and, in the more substantial pieces, a strong sense of structure. The Swan of Tuonela is powerfully evocative, with distinguished solo contributions from cor anglais and cello, and the whole orchestra brings real enthusiasm to its account of Finlandia. And the top-class quality of the recording imparts a special magic to Sibelius’s orchestral textures…”