“Kuolema;” Belshazzar’s Feast – Suite; The Tempest: Suite No. 2; Andate
Festivo – Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Joseph Swensen – Linn multichannel
SACD CKD 220, 65:46 ****:
The theater music of Sibelius is the theme of this collection.
The Finnish master created works for the stage throughout his life and
they constitute some of his best music. His incidental music doesn’t
usually try to accompany dramatic stage action but instead sets the
scenes, providing atmosphere and mood for the plays. One of his early
scores was about 20 minutes of music for a play titled Kuolema (Death).
In it was the stark and affecting Valse Triste, which became an instant
hit and the composer’s most famous work. Unfortunately he had
signed away rights to a publisher and never got a cent for it. The
four-movement Belshazzar’s Feast music comes from ten selections
created for a play. The suite is embued with a strongly exotic
and colorful cast – similar to the Arabian Dance of Grieg in his Peer
Gynt music. The suite for Shakespeare’s The Tempest has eight
movements and was drawn from his major score of over an hour for the
Royal Danish Theatre’s production of the play. The Second Suite
is devoted to some of the intimate portraits and episodes in the play.
This is just one of many recordings from the Scottish Chamber
Orchestra, for Linn and other labels. Their exceptional SACD of
the Mozart Requiem was one recent one.
– John Sunier