Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since 2013, Sakari Oramo has a special affinity with the music of his compatriot the Finnish composer Sibelius, which this recording admirably demonstrates.
Sibelius’s ever-popular Lemminkäinen Suite is complemented here with the early Spring Song and the lesser-known Suite from Belshazzar’s Feast.
Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen Suite (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22 in the 1890s. Drawing on material originally conceived for a mythological opera, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat), the suite focuses on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.
In 1906 Sibelius composed ten numbers of incidental music for the play Belshazzar’s Feast (by Hjalmar Procopé), which was first performed in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki in November of that year, the composer conducting. The following year, Sibelius extracted four of the movements to form the more widely known orchestral suite that we hear in this recording.
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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957):
Lemminkäinen Suite (Four Legends), Op. 22
1. No. 1, Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island
2. No. 2, The Swan of Tuonela
3. No. 3, Lemminkäinen in Tuonela
No. 4, Lemminkäinen's Return
5. Spring Song, Op. 16
Suite from Belshazzar’s Feast, Op. 51
6. I. Oriental March
7. II. Solitude
8. III. Nocturne
9. IV. Khadra's Dance
The Classical Music Collector
"Once upon a time, as they say, Sibelius’ Swan of Tuonela was one of Classical Music’s great pop hits, heard regularly and familiar to all. Nowadays the Lemminkäinen Suite (also known as the Four Legends from the Kalevala) that includes the Swan is by no means as well-known, and it is pleasing to see Chandos release a new performance of these quintessentially Sibelian works. Also included in the program is the Suite from the incidental music to Belshazzar's Feast that Sibelius wrote for a play in 1906. This is an example of that strange phenomenon of Scandinavian exoticism, like Carl Nielsen’s Aladdin or Ludolf Nielsen’s Lakschmi, and presents Sibelius in an unexpected light. Belshazzar's Feast is musically both interesting and appealing, and deserves to be better known. Rounding out this very attractive CD is a performance of Spring Song, a more characteristically Nordic Sibelius score." - Chris Dench