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CD Feature/ Sibelius: "Works for Violin and Orchestra"

img  Tobias

Pekka Kuusisto and Sibelius belong together. Almost exactly ten years ago, Kuusisto celebrated his debut to the recording world with a rendition of the composer’s famous Violin Concerto, a disc which gained him instant attention and international acclaim. Since then, he might have been a busy bee with a total of eigth releases, but the bond with Sibelius was broken. Then out of the blue, it was renewed again only a short while ago with a quiet sensation: The sessions to “Musical Soiree at Ainola”, a collaboration with pianist Heini Kärkäinen, took place in Sibelius’ former house and the booklet featured some long forgotten pictures of his family. Pekka, too, seemed to have arrived back home and his new CD sees him dig up treasures from Sibelius endless island of creativity.

As with any other release of slightly obscure repertoire, scepticism has already reared its ugly head. Some have declared the man’s “back catalogue” as slightly superficial and denied it an equal standing with the more mainstream oeuvre. Don’t believe them. The simple reason that these “Works for Violin and Orchestra” have not caught on the way they might have is that they slightly contradict the popular picture of Sibelius as a depressed artist with a knack for sorrowful tunes. And in Kuusisto’s hand, they also defy the notion of crystal clear, icy landscapes – instead, these short pieces, serendas and suites shine in all colours of the rainbow and represent a well-balanced panopticum of emotions. More than anything, they depict Sibelius as a master of moods and a romantic and occasionaly even humorous man. Proof of the latter are the appropriately titled “Humoresques”, sometimes only three to four minute long tracks, in  which almost caricaturesque passages of grinding and greasing are set against dramatic and stirring performances. In the orchestral suite op. 117, he evokes frozen moments in time, ranging from joyous to pensive. And in the concluding “Swanwhite”, a music originally written as an accompaniment to Strindberg’s at the time unsuccesful play of the same name, Sibelius leaps from one great melody to the next, while harmonies shimmer and glisten in ever changing patters of major and minor keys. The “Tapiola Sinfioniette”, despite lacking just a tad of presence and urgency in the final mix, are in full flow in the more upbeat sections and menacing in the suspenseful climaxes, with almost machinal sounds and spacious string layers.

All in all, it’s a selection of cpmpositions, which work both individually and as part of an album, which manages to avoid being dull only once. Somehow, these scattered bits and pieces make for a homogenous whole and form a huge symphony of their own. Without a doubt, this can be traced back to Kuusisto, who turns what could have been yet another recording of slightly obscure repertoire into a personal journey. It can only be hoped that the succes of this disc will justify similar excursions in the future. After all, Pekka Kuusisto and Jean Sibelius do belong together.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Ondine Records
Homepage: Note 1 Distribution

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