Sibelius: The Complete Songs

Reviewed on Thu 01 Oct, 2015

That great (and much-missed) Finnish bass-baritone Tom Krause (1934-2013) has the lion's share of duties and is in resplendent voice throughout, his interpretations irreproachably sensitive and superbly idiomatic.

Originally released by Decca in the autumn of 1984 on its own Argo label, this absorbing anthology houses Sibelius's criminally underrated song output on four CDs. It's a hugely rewarding voyage of discovery, from the early promise of the Opp 13 and 17 sets (the former to Swedish texts by the Finnish poet Jakob Ludwig Runeberg), via the four cycles, Opp 35-38, which contain some of Sibelius's greatest songs (notably Höstkväll, Jubal, Teodora and Säv, säv, susa), to the six settings of Runeberg, Op 90, dating from 1917 when he was still grappling with the final revision of Fifth Symphony. Of the handful of settings in Finnish, mention must be made of Illalle ('To Evening') and Lastu lainehilla ('Driftwood') from 1898 and 1902 respectively – hauntingly lovely, both. The performances are splendid. That great (and much-missed) Finnish bass-baritone Tom Krause (1934-2013) has the lion's share of duties and is in resplendent voice throughout, his interpretations irreproachably sensitive and superbly idiomatic. Decca provide ideally realistic and glowing sound to match. Here is undoubtedly one of the most valuable reissues so far in Sibelius's 150th-anniversary year. Grab it while you can!
–Andrew Achenbach