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Sibelius Theatre Music - The Daily Telegraph

09 May 2005
The Daily Telegraph
Matthew Rye

Although he only completed one, short opera, Sibelius was no stranger to the theatre. This enterprising disc brings some of his better-known incidental scores together with music less often aired. Perhaps the most familiar is the suite from his music for Maeterlinck's Pelleas and Melisande, which opens the programme with playing that is both crisp and charged with the underlying drama: "The Death of Melisande" is particularly moving. The least known is probably Belshazzar's Feast, but Swensen and his orchestra make a good case for it, especially in the typically spacious musical world of the movement entitled "Solitude". There is also a compelling account of the Valse Triste, but Suite No 2 from the late score for The Tempest - some of the last music Sibelius wrote before his long retirement - lacks the atmosphere and characterisation that conductors such as Beecham and, more recently, Neeme Järvi have brought to it. Yet the Scottish Chamber Orchestra fields exceptional solo work, even if its strings occasionally sound thin in number (though probably comparable with what Sibelius would have been presented with in the theatre pit), and the recording from Edinburgh's Usher Hall is particularly vivid.

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Sibelius: Theatre MusicSibelius: Theatre Music