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Sibelius Theatre Music - The Dominion Post


10 May 2005
The Dominion Post
John Button
4½ Stars

For the average music lover the music of Sibelius is best known through the seven symphonies, the known tone poems and the Violin Concerto, but throughout his career he composed a huge number of scores for the stage and all the works on this well played disc represent that side of his creative life. Sibelius was one of a number of composers who wrote music to the subject of Maeterlinck's 1893 drama Pelleas & Melisande; Debussy with an opera, Schoenberg a large orchestral score and Faure, like Sibelius, incidental music for a staging of the play, were all attracted to Maeterlinck's world. Sibelius' music is marvellously evocative, fully capturing the almost hallucinatory atmosphere of the play. The Belshazzar's Feast music is much less complex, but its pastiche of orientalism, a little like Nielsen's Aladdin, is still highly enjoyable. But in some ways the most mouth-watering is the inclusion of the second Suite from the composer's ambitious music for Shakespeare's The Tempest. The full score, from near the end of his compositional list, includes soloists, chorus and a large orchestra. The second suite is for smaller forces and is a fascinating glimpse of where Sibelius may have moved had he not suddenly stopped composing. With the ever popular Valse Triste and the Andante Festivo filling out the disc, we have both a fascinating programme and some beautifully judged playing, assisted by stunning sound to tempt the slightly adventurous.
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