Title - 'Sibelius: Complete Songs' [4 CD]
Artist - Various
For those not in the classical know, Jean Sibelius (actually born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius in 1865), was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. Widely recognized as his country's national composer, Sibelius is often credited for supporting the rise of the Finnish national identity in the country's struggle for independence.
Sibelius composed almost a hundred songs, most of them to Swedish texts. The earliest set, Opus 13, dates from the early 1890s, and the last, the Six Runeberg settings, op.90, comes from the darkest years of the First World War when he was struggling with the definitive version of the Fifth Symphony.
True, there are two other songs the delightful settings of Bertel Gripenberg's Narciss (1918) and of Hjalmar Procopé's Små flickorna (Young girls, 1920), but to all intents and purposes, Sibelius's contribution to the romans repertoire ends well before his last four major works, the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, Tapiola and The Tempest.
Here on Sibelius: Complete Songs, a 4CD collection that houses an astonishing 93 tracks of perfectly orchestrated magic, Sibelius' world where Nordic myths and reality unite is a joy to behold. A Gramophone Award-winner, this definitive set presents the rare opportunity to hear the complete songs, performed by Elisabeth Söderström, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Tom Krause and Irwin Gage.
The record companies are all busy with reissues to note the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius. Kudos to Decca for coming up with the relatively novel idea of gathering together the Sibelius records the label issued in the 1950s and early 60s! They could have gone the DG route and cobbled together the usual stuff that has already been reissued countless times on CD, but they didn't. Instead, Decca has given us an insight into Sibelius performances from what ended up being the final decade of the composer's life.