Sibelius: Tapiola, Op 112; En Saga, Op 9; Eight Songs (orch Aulis Sallinen)

Reviewed on Tue 03 Apr, 2018

This is punctilious musicianship that is also at one with Anne Sofie von Otter’s perceptive characterisation of the Eight Songs discriminatingly orchestrated by Aulis Sallinen.

Sibelius called En Saga a tone poem but never revealed its story, only saying “It has got a down-home feeling. How could one think of anything but Finland while listening to it”. And you certainly could not think of anything else as Hannu Lintu expounds the music, beginning Moderato assai with muted strings playing pianissimo, to changes in tempo and volume skilfully gauged within a discerningly judged range of expression. This is punctilious musicianship that is also at one with Anne Sofie von Otter’s perceptive characterisation of the Eight Songs discriminatingly orchestrated by Aulis Sallinen. Is punctiliousness enough for Tapiola, a paramount work that became Sibelius’s last will and testament? Lintu seems to think so, and certainly in terms of instrumental balance, dynamic shading and textural transparency, this is a remarkable performance that lays bare the orchestration. But Lintu doesn’t fully reveal its purpose, standing back from the sheer elemental terror of the music. Not so Leif Segerstam (also Ondine), who throws himself into the vortex of this immense composition, exposing the vibrancy and violence hinted at in a poem the composer wrote to accompany his score: “Widespread they stand the northlands dusky forests / Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams / Within them dwells the forest’s mighty god / And wood sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.”
–Nalen Anthoni