Sibelius: Piano Works, Volume 2

Reviewed on Tue 26 Sep, 2017

The biggest item here is the early Piano Sonata from 1893, whose central Andantino shows the influence of Karelian folk music and can boast some genuinely haunting invention.

The great Wilhelm Kempff was an admirer of Sibelius's agreeably pithy Sonatinas, Op 67, with their crisp textures and invigorating part writing. They're also the most durably rewarding pieces in Joseph Tong's second volume of piano music by the Finnish master, though there are plenty of other fetching morsels that likewise benefit from his uncommonly deft, affectionate and imaginative approach. The second of the Six Bagatelles, Op 97, is a sweetly songful miniature. I like, too, the quirky individuality of the Five Characteristic Impressions, Op 103: the hymn-like tune from the Andante festivo for strings makes an appearance in the first ('The Village Church'); and in the charming No 3 ('The Oarsman') there's even a hint of the sunlit central episode from the mighty Seventh Symphony (composed around the same time). The biggest item here is the early Piano Sonata from 1893, whose central Andantino shows the influence of Karelian folk music and can boast some genuinely haunting invention. The recording is outstandingly real, and Tong himself pens the copious and insightful booklet-essay. Altogether most enjoyable.
–Andrew Achenbach