Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Legends, Op 22; The Wood-Nymph, Op 15

Reviewed on Fri 25 Jul, 2014

The big news here, for those who don’t already know it, is The Wood-Nymph, based on a poem about a hero who is led astray by dwarves in the forest, colossal music redolent of Wagner and, especially at the end, Bruckner, with hints at En Saga and, more unexpectedly, Tapiola in between. Osmo Vänskä drives a taut, powerful performance that will burn the music into the same part of your brain where the Lemminkäinen Legends already reside. Vänskä’s recording of the latter suite in its original guise is also on BIS, but his way with the final revision is equally imposing, although I could have done with just a little more atmosphere in ‘The Swan of Tuonela’. I’m also very partial to Leif Segerstam’s reading of ‘Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island’ (Ondine), where the Wagnerian element is played to the full, but Vänskä’s shimmering ‘Lemminkäinen in Tuonola’ packs one hell of a wallop, largely due to the sheer power of the Lahti bass drum. ‘Lemminkäinen's Return’ rounds things off well but the highlights are definitely ‘Lemminkäinen in Tuonola’ and The Wood-Nymph, both of them superb performances in spectacular sound.
–Rob Cowan