Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Yoel Levi, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
"Sibelius: Tone Poems & Incidental Music" (CD)

Sibelius is the only name in the classical tradition that even a well-informed listener can name from Finland.    For decades his symphonies have been part of any conductor's complete repertoire and his "Finlandia, op. 26" was actually my first exposure to the composer's music during youth orchestra.

Thanks in part to Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska's tenure as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, Sibelius' music has enjoyed some time in the sunlight.

This disc features four works by Sibelius that I am completely unfamiliar with. Beginning with his "Karelia Suite, op. 11," "En Saga, op 9," and "Pohjola's Daughter, op. 49" we then get to the only work on this disc that I was familiar with aside from "Finlandia."  "The Swan of Tuonela, op. 22" is a salvaged overture from an opera that Sibelius abandoned before its completion.

The Atlanta Symphony has a uniquely (and so far indescribable) American qualities to its playing that are both incredibly clear, organized and so sonorous and pure.  Hopefully this will be one of those orchestras that I develop an "ear" for as time goes on.

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