Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite, Pohjola's Daughter - Lintu
Ondine ODE 1262-5
Classical - Orchestral
Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite; Pohjola's Daughter
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Lemminkäinen Legends is a large and fascinating orchestral work in four movements based on the Finnish Kalevala epic. Originally completed in 1895 the work has a unique position in Sibelius' oeuvre: Sibelius never came closer to the very core of Symbolism than in the misty moods, swan motifs and macabre features of Lemminkäinen. It also includes one of Sibelius' most well-known orchestral pieces, The Swan of Tuonela. Written before the 1st Symphony, it is also noteworthy that Lemminkäinen lacks nothing of a symphony.
Sibelius was not totally satisfied with the work, but withdrew the work soon after its premiere until it was heard again in 1935. However, in his late years Sibelius did not even totally reject the idea of calling Lemminkäinen as ‘a symphony'.
Pohjola's Daughter (Pohjolan tytär), completed in 1906, is among Sibelius' final orchestral pieces directly linked to the Kalevala epic in his transition from National Romanticism towards a more Classical idiom. It includes some of the boldest and most dramatic scoring that Sibelius ever wrote, illustrating Väinämöinen's futile attempts to win the maiden of Pohjola for himself.
Year 2015 marks the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), also known as "Finland's national composer".
The recent recordings of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra together with their Chief Conductor Hannu Lintu on Ondine have gathered excellent reviews in the international press.
Review by Graham Williams - May 4, 2015
With three recordings of the Sibelius 'Lemminkäinen Legends' in their catalogue Ondine has almost cornered the market in this work in recent years. An impressive account from Leif Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 1995 was followed five years later by one from Mikko Franck and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra – a very spacious but beautifully nuanced reading. Now, in time for the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth we have a further recommendable version, this time on SACD, from Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra that joins Osmo Vanska's BIS recording Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Suite, The Wood-Nymph - Vänskä as a top SACD recommendation.
Like most conductors – though not Segerstam – Lintu performs the work's four sections in the order of the composer's revised version 1947, that is with the two central movements transposed ('The Swan of Tuonela' followed by 'Lemminkäinen in Tuonela').
Overall Lintu adopts a more urgent approach to this work than the two conductors listed above, but his account is full of fantasy aligned with firm orchestral discipline. The manner with which he immediately establishes the sensuous atmosphere of opening section 'Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Islands' (sometimes called 'Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of Saari') could hardly be improved upon and sets the tone for his interpretation of the rest of the work. His restrained performance of the celebrated 'The Swan of Tuonela' is imbued with a rapt stillness, and the cor anglais solo is well integrated into the orchestral texture rather than being spotlit as in many recordings.
'Lemminkäinen in Tuonela', unaccountably the least performed of these Legends, is the work's scherzo and is given a marvellous performance full of imaginative insights. The conductor's excellent control of dynamics in the surging tremolo strings at the opening at once establishes the dramatic scenario. Lintu adopts a very fast pace for the fourth movement, 'Lemminkäinen's Return', and while this is initially very exciting by the time we reach the final section the pace could perhaps be considered almost too hectic, though to be fair articulation does not suffer.
Sibelius's tone poem 'Pohjola's Daughter' written in 1906 makes an appropriate and welcome fill-up to the main offering on this SACD, and Lintu's richly detailed reading misses nothing of the work's epic quality.
Ondine's fine 5.0 multi-channel recordings made in the Helsinki Music Centre (October and November 2014) do full justice both to Sibelius's thrilling orchestral palette and Hannu Lintu's invigorating conducting.
I look forward to more Sibelius from this team.
Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net