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Sibelius Theatre Music -

03 October 2004
David Hurwitz
5 Stars

This is an absolutely super Sibelius program containing a well-chosen selection of some of his finest theater music. Pelleas and Melisande doesn't heave and pant as heavily as some versions in "At the Castle Gate" or "The Death of Melisande", but there's plenty of lovely string playing from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the livelier numbers (such as the Entr'acte) never have been done better. The same observation holds true of Valse Triste, which has the necessary elegiac air about it without ever turning sticky. Belshazzar's Feast has plenty of impact in the opening "Oriental Procession", while "Khadra's Dance" is the very soul of grace, first cousin to Grieg's Anitra. Suite No. 2 from The Tempest is simply gorgeous. "Dance of the Nymphs", "Naiads", and the concluding "Dance Episode" benefit from conductor Joseph Swensen's attention to niceties of rhythm, while "Prospero" sounds properly imposing. A fine Andante Festivo (more "festivo" than "andante" perhaps) rounds out the disc, which also benefits from state-of-the-art sonics in both stereo and multichannel formats. The latter format especially offers exceptional realism without excessive "business" in the rear channels and with no diffusion of impact or excessive reverberation. The Oriental Procession would make a terrific demo for the new technology. An easy and enthusiastic recommendation!

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