SIBELIUS: Lemminkäinen Suite & The Wood Nymph – Lahti Sym. Orch. / Osmo Vanska – BIS multichannel SACD 1745, 69:37 [7/8/14] (Distr. by Naxos) ****:

Finland’s most notable composer, Jean Sibelius is best known for his seven symphonies and his violin concerto, but the composer also wrote many tone poems, of which Finlandia is perhaps the most famous.

I was happy to see this latest release from BIS, which includes the  Lemminkäinen Suite and The Wood Nymph, both works I’d missed somewhere along my musical journeys.

The Suite, also called The Four Legends, written in the early 1890s, originally as part of a planned opera. The second movement, The Swan of Tuonela, is often performed on its own, but I was happy to hear it with the other three movements.

This is a lovely 5.0 channel SACD, with the Lahti Symphony conducted by Osmo Vanska. The Orchestra, based in the Finnish city of Lahti, and dates back to 1949. The performance recorded here is assured and full of the mesmerizing beauty Sibelius often brought to his compositions.

The Wood Nymph, another symphonic poem, is based on a text by Viktor Rydberg of the same name. Completed 1894-95, the first public performance was in Helsinki in 1895 with Sibelius conducting. Sketches of the work were also originally set for an opera, but instead this is a development of the themes into a tone poem. As performed on this disc, it’s a dynamic work, one which evokes the ‘Sibelius sound’ many of us are familiar with.

The recording, both the multichannel and the CD layer, are state of the art. The orchestra, especially the strings, sounds very realistic. Listening to the 5.0 layer I found the orchestra image to be well defined, while the rear channels captured the sound of the recording venue. Everything sounded very ‘live’, The recording itself dates from 2006 and 2007, and was recorded, appropriately enough, at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti.

Highly recommended!

—Mel Martin