Jean Sibelius

Karelia Suite; Rakastava; Lemminkäinen

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Susanna Mälkki

Barcode: 7318599926384
Release Date: 02/02/2024

The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra can with justification be regarded as ‘Sibelius’s own orchestra’, as it was this orchestra, usually conducted by the composer, that premièred most of his major works. On this disc of three such pieces, the orchestra is conducted by Susanna Mälkki; the recording follows on from their three acclaimed albums devoted to the music of Bartók. Although they were all later revised, the three works on this recording all originated within a very short period in Sibelius’s career: the years 1893–96, a time when he was beginning to establish himself as a composer and a time of national awakening. One of his most popular works, the Karelia Suite is drawn from a series of tableaux that evoked events in the history of Karelia, the region where Finland and Russia meet. In late 19th-century Finland, the promotion of Karelian folk culture was both fashionable and politically relevant. The short suite Rakastava [The Lover] is a subtle reworking of a work for male voices based on lyrical poems from the collection Kanteletar; Sibelius often conducted it in concert. Sibelius often drew inspiration from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, and episodes from this poem provide the subject matter of Lemminkäinen, a substantial four-movement suite (including the captivating Swan of Tuonela) that recounts the adventures of a daredevil hero, a sort of Nordic Don Juan.