Sibelius: Piano Works, Volume 1

Reviewed on Sun 26 Apr, 2015

Prospective purchasers can rest assured that Tong proves an exquisitely poised and perceptive guide through this little-known terrain, and he has been extremely well recorded.

This first volume in Joseph Tong's exploration of piano music by Sibelius launches in compelling fashion with a commandingly articulate reading of Kyllikki, three hauntingly lovely and darkly expressive pieces that date from around the time of the Second Symphony. To be honest, nothing that follows rises to quite the same level of inspiration – which is not to say that there aren't plenty of enjoyable finds along the way. Certainly, the Two Rondinos exhibit a quiet individuality that lure one back for further hearings. Likewise, the two volumes of miniatures known as Tree Cycle and Flower Cycle, Opp 75 and 85, contain some delightful invention: try No 2 ('The Solitary Pine') from the former, sometimes thought of a self-portrait of the composer. Prospective purchasers can rest assured that Tong proves an exquisitely poised and perceptive guide through this little-known terrain, and he has been extremely well recorded by Dave Rowell within the kind acoustic of the Jacqueline du Pré Music Building at St Hilda's College in Oxford. A most likeable release, this, and one definitely worth tracking down.
–Andrew Achenbach