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Inspired Sibelius

Music for the theatre -

'Again BIS has done the great master proud.'

The Sibelius Edition: Theatre Music. © 2008 BIS Records AB

Sibelius's theatre music began in 1898 and ended in 1957, the last year of his life, when he orchestrated Ariel's song 'Come away, death' from The Tempest. The dramatists involved include Hofmannsthal, Maeterlinck, Shakespeare, and Strindberg. He tackled nine plays in all, and made orchestral concert suites from five of them, some comparatively well known. It has seemed of most interest, therefore, to concentrate on movements Sibelius did not incorporate into the suites, particularly since much of this music is vocal.

Adolf Paul's play of 1898 concerns one of the odder fish in the history of Scandinavian royalty. Christian II married Isabella of Burgundy, but his main love was a Norwegian commoner of Dutch extraction, whose mother proved also to be something of a commercial genius for Christian, but was known to the nobility as 'the foul-mouthed Dutch sorceress'. Attempted reforms led to his downfall and twenty-seven year imprisonment, much in Sonderborg Castle. There the court fool sings in 1549 of the large black spider that kills all living souls except those of heroes.

Listen -- Sibelius: Fool's Song of the Spider (King Christian II)
(CD1 track 4, 0:02-1:19) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Kuolema (Death) by Arvid Järnefelt inspired as first number a piece that was eventually to become Valse triste. The dying woman rises from her sickbed to dance with an imaginary partner who gradually materialises into the shadowy figure of Death himself.

Listen -- Sibelius: Scene 1 (Kuolema)
(CD1 track 8, 1:59-3:30) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Strindberg's Swanwhite has lovely princess of the title, wicked stepmother, prince who is brought back to life after drowning on the way to his beloved, and improbable happy ending. 'The golden clouds become rose red' is concerned with the sleeping Swanwhite and prince in a violin solo (Sakari Tepponen) over quiet pizzicato strings.

Listen -- Sibelius: 'The golden clouds become rose red' (Swanwhite)
(CD1 track 24, 0:53-1:26) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Maeterlinck's Pelléas and Mélisande, essentially territory claimed by Claude Debussy, inspired Sibelius in 1905 to ten numbers, one of the most attractive being Mélisande's song in Act 3 about three blind sisters who climb a tower, one claiming hope never dies, the second that the king is about to arrive, and the third sensing that their lights have gone out. The setting is gentle, like a whimsical folksong.

Listen -- Sibelius: Mélisande's song (Pelléas and Mélisande)
(CD2 track 6, 0:35-1:16) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Sibelius wrote twenty-four pieces for Hofmannsthal's version of Everyman, six of them vocal. The choir, for instance, rejoices in the renewed greenery of the forests, but laments the absence of a lover ridden far, far away.

Listen -- Sibelius: No 9 'Maat ja metsät viheriöivät (Jedermann)
(CD2 track 20, 0:00-0:24) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Sibelius's 1925 music to Shakespeare's Tempest involved thirty-nine separate pieces in all, and eventually produced two suites. Caliban's song about escape from servitude to the hated Prospero has all the boisterous vulgarity of a character who is yet sensitive to the strange music of the mysterious isle.

Listen -- Sibelius: Caliban's Song The Tempest
(CD3 track 15, 0:47-1:14) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Belshazzar's Feast was a play by Procopé involving the eventual slaughter of the protagonist by a murderous Jewess, and the Sibelius music dates from 1906. Here he is oriental in the well-established Russian manner. The feast itself is represented with suitable martial pomp.

Listen -- Sibelius: Act III No 3 Belshazzar's Feast
(CD4 track 4, 0:29-0:46) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Scaramouche of 1913 concerns the seduction of Blondelaine, during the course of a ball, by the hunch-backed dwarf of the play's title, who plays the viola, and is eventually slain by the heroine. A bolero is part of the dance sequence.

Listen -- Sibelius: Act I Scene 4, Tempo di bolero Scaramouche
(CD5 track 8, 1:02-1:52) © 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

A main fascination of this set is to see how Sibelius transformed his original music into effective concert suites. Again BIS has done the great master proud. The performances by singers, choirs, and orchestras under their various conductors display equal commitment to a project that should show the way to other less single-minded and devoted companies.

Copyright © 23 October 2008 Robert Anderson, Cairo, Egypt


The Sibelius Edition - 5: Theatre Music

BIS-CD-1912/14 DDD Stereo COMPILATION (6 CDs) 79'10"/70'37"/79'26"/79'04"/79'00"/78'10" - TT 465'27" 1984-2008 BIS Records AB

Johan (Jean) Christian Julius Sibelius (1865-1957):

CD 1:

King Christian II Op 27
Play by Adolf Paul - Original theatre music (1898)

Movements composed for the February 1898 production:
1 Elegy. Lento assai (Overture)
2 Musette. Allegretto (Act II, Scene 2)
3 Menuetto. Non troppo lento (Act III, Scene 1)
4 Fool's Song of the Spider (Act V, Scene 3)
'Bak villande skog ...' Moderato
Raimo Laukka, baritone

Movements composed during the summer of 1898:
5 Nocturne. Moderato (After Act I)
6 Serenade. Moderato assai - Moderato (Act III, Scene 1)
7 Ballade. Allegro molto - Vivace (Act IV)

Kuolema (Death), JS113
Play by Arvid Järnefelt - original theatre music (1903)
8 Scene I. Tempo di valse lente - Poco risoluto
9 Scene II. Moderato (Paavali's Song: 'Pakkanen puhurin poika')
Raimo Laukka, baritone
10 Scene III. Moderato assai - Moderato (Elsa's Song: 'Eilaa, eilaa') - Poco adagio
Kirsi Tiihonen, soprano
11 Scene IV. Andante (The Cranes)
12 Scene V. Moderato
13 Scene VI. Andante ma non tanto

Svanevit (Swanwhite)
Play by August Strindberg
14 Preliminary sketch for No 9 (c1908) (first recording)

Svanevit (Swanwhite), JS189
Play by August Strindberg - Original theatre music (1908)

Act I
15 No 1 A horn signal in the distance. Largo
16 No 2 Comodo
17 No 3 A swan flies past. Adagio

Act II
18 No 4 Now the harp begins to play. Lento assai
19 No 5 A white swan flies past. Adagio
20 No 6 Swanwhite's mother. Lento - Comodo - Lento - Allegro
21 No 7 The harp falls briefly silent and strikes up a new melody. Andantino
22 No 8 Elsewhere! Andante
23 No 9 Stepmother: Where is the bride? Lento
24 No 10 The golden clouds become rose red. Moderato
Sakari Tepponen, violin

25 No 11 Swanwhite. Allegretto
26 No 12 Fire at the castle. Largamente
27 No 13 Now the harp plays. Adagio
Pauli Pietiläinen, organ
28 No 14 All bend their knees as if in thanks and praise. Largamente molto
Pauli Pietiläinen, organ

Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Sinfonia Lahti)
Osmo Vänskä, conductor (all except preliminary sketch)
Jaakko Kuusisto, conductor (Swanwhite preliminary sketch)

CD 2:

Pelléas and Mélisande, JS 147
Play by Maurice Maeterlinck (Swedish translation: Bertel Gripenberg)
Original theatre music (1905)

Act I
1 Grave e largamente (Prelude, Scene 1)
2 Andantino con moto (Scene 2)
3 Adagio (Scene 4)

Act II
4 Comodo (Prelude, Scene 1)

5 Con moto (ma non tanto) (Prelude, Scene 1)
6 Tranquillo (Mélisande's Song, Scene 2)
'De trenne blinda systrar'
Anna-Lisa Jakobsson, mezzo-soprano
7 Andantino pastorale (Scene 4)

Act IV
8 Allegretto (Prelude, Scene 1)
9 [no tempo marking] (Scene 2)

Act V
10 Andante (Prelude, Scene 2)

Jokamies (Jedermann) Op 83 (1916)
Play by Hugo von Hofmannsthal (Finnish translation: Huugo Jalkanen)
11 No 1 Largo
12 No 2 Largo
13 No 3 Allegro
14 No 3a Allegro comodo
15 No 4 Dance Song ('Me kutsun saimme ...') Tempo comodo
Petri Lehto, tenor
Sauli Tiilikainen, baritone
16 No 5 'On riemussa hetket mennehet taas' Tempo andante
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
17 No 6 'Kun vettä sataa, niin kastutaan' Un poco con moto
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
18 No 7 'Maat ja metsät viheriöivät ...' Tempo moderato
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
Sauli Tiilikainen, baritone
19 No 8 'Oi, Lempi, armas Lempi! ...' Allegretto
Sauli Tiilikainen, baritone
20 No 9 'Maat ja metsät viheriöivät ...' Tempo moderato
21 No 10 Allegro molto
22 No 11 Largo, sempre misterioso
23 No 12 Adagio di molto
24 No 13 Adagio di molto (continued)
25 No 14 Largo e molto - Doloroso - Con grande dolore
26 No 15 [Lento]
27 No 16 'Gloria in excelsis Deo'. Sempre dolce sin al Fine

Pauli Pietiläinen, organ
Leena Saarenpää, piano
Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

CD 3:

Kuolema (Death) Op 44
Play by Arvid Järnefelt - Revised versions
1 Valse triste (1904)
Lento - Poco risoluto - Più risoluto e mosso - Lento assai
2 Kurkikohtaus (Scene with Cranes) (1906)
Andante sostenuto

The Tempest Op 109
Play by William Shakespeare (Finnish translation: Hannu Heikkilä)
Original theatre music (1925)
3 No 1 [Overture - The Ship Sinks beneath the Waves] Largamente molto

Act I
4 No 2 Miranda is Lulled into Slumber. Andante
Ilkka Sivonen, harmonium
5 No 3 Ariel flies in. Allegro
6 No 4 Chorus of the Winds. Molto moderato
Lahti Opera Chorus, directed by Anna-Clara Groundstroem
Ilkka Sivonen, harmonium
7 No 5 [Ariel Hastens Away]. Allegro
8 No 6 Ariel's First Song, with Introduction and Choir
Poco con moto - Poco tranquillo - Poco a poco stretto 'Hietikolle käymme näin'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
Lahti Opera Chorus, directed by Anna-Clara Groundstroem
Ilkka Sivonen, harmonium
9 No 7 Ariel's Second Song. Largamente
'Sun isääs' peittävät synkeät veet'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
Lahti Opera Chorus, directed by Anna-Clara Groundstroem

Act II
10 No 8 Interlude [Prospero]. Adagio - Poco meno adagio - Tempo primo
11 No 9 The Oak Tree (Ariel) Plays the Flute. Molto moderato
Ilkka Sivonen, harmonium
12 No 10 Ariel's Third Song. Moderato - stringendo
'Täällä senkun kuorsataan'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
Lahti Opera Chorus, directed by Anna-Clara Groundstroem
13 No 11 Interlude: Caliban. Allegretto - Più moderato - Poco a poco stretto
Heikki Keinonen, tenor
14 No 12 Stephano's Song. Moderato - Comodo
'En enää lähde merelle'
Anssi Hirvonen, tenor
15 No 13 Caliban's Song. Moderato - Allegro
'Hei, Prosperon perkele'
Heikki Keinonen, tenor

16 No 14 Interlude: Miranda. Allegretto
17 No 15 [Humoresque] Allegro comodo
18 No 16 Canon [Caliban, Trinculo, Stephano]. Allegretto con moto 'Kurkitaan, urkitaan'
Heikki Keinonen, tenor
Anssi Hirvonen, tenor
Paavo Kerola, tenor
19 No 17 Antonio. Dance of the Shapes
Moderato assai - Allegro molto moderato - Poco tranquillo - Allegro e poco a poco stretto
20 No 18 Ariel as Harpy (- Melodrama). Grave
Ilkka Sivonen, harmonium
21 No 19 The Shapes Dance Out (Ballet II). Allegro

Act IV
22 No 20 Intermezzo [Alonso mourns]. Andante con moto
23 No 21 [Ariel flies in]. Allegro (=No 3)
24 No 22 Ariel's Fourth Song, Allegretto moderato
'Ennen kuin ehdit huokaamaan'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
25 No 23 The Rainbow. Poco adagio
26 No 24 Iris's Melodrama. Moderato assai
27 No 25 [Juno's Song]. Comodo
'Kunnia ja vaurautta'
Kirsi Tilhonen, soprano
28 No 26 Dance of the Naiads. Allegretto graziozo
29 No 27 Dance of the Harvesters. Comodo
30 No 28 [Ariel flies in]. Allegro (=No 3)
31 No 29 [Ariel hastens away]. (=No 5)
32 No 30 [Ariel flies in]. Allegro (=No 3)
33 No 31 The Dogs. Poco con moto - Allegretto

Act V
34 No 31 bis. Prelude. Poco con moto (instrumental version of No 33)
35 No 32 [Ariel Brings the Foes to Prospero]
Largo - Un pochettino affrettando - Adagio
36 No 33 Ariel's Fifth Song. Poco con moto
'Mä mettä janooni juoda saan'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano
37 No 34 Cortège. Tempo giusto - Poco a poco stretto
38 No 34 bis. Ossia [Epilogue]. Poco adagio - Allargando

The Tempest
Play by William Shakespeare
39 Canon. Allegro comodo (1927) (first recording)
Preliminary version of movement No 5 of The Tempest Suite No 1 Op 109 No 2

Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

CD 4:

Belsazars gästabud (Belshazzar's Feast) JS 48
Play by Hjalmar Procopé - Original theatre music (1906)

Act I
1 No 1 Alla marcia (Moderato)

Act II
2 No 2a Prélude: Nocturno. Andantino
3 No 2b The Jewish Girl's Song. 'Vid älvarna i Babylon'
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano

4 No 3 Allegretto
5 No 4 Dance of Life. Comodo
6 No 5 Dance of Death. Comodo
7 No 6 Dance of Life: extract (aber langsam)

Act IV
8 No 7 Tempo sostenuto
9 No 8 Allegro
10 No 9 Dance of Life (shortened)
11 No 10 Dance of Death

Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Kung Kristian II (King Christian II) Op 27
Play by Adolf Paul - Concert Suite (1898)
12 No 1 Nocturne. Moderato
13 No 2 Elegy. Lento assai
14 No 3 Musette. Vivace assai
15 No 4 Serenade. Moderato assai - Moderato
16 No 5 Ballade. Allegro molto - Vivace

Svanevit (Swanwhite) Op 54
Play by August Strindberg - Concert Suite (1908)
17 No 1 The Peacock, Adagio - (Allegro comodo)
18 No 2 The Harp. Largo
19 No 3 The Maidens with Roses. Lento assai
20 No 4 Listen, the Robin Sings. Vivace
21 No 5 The Prince Alone. Andante sostenuto
22 No 6 Swanwhite and the Prince. Allegretto
23 No 7 Song of Praise. Largo

Twelfth Night Op 60
Play by William Shakespeare (Swedish translation: Carl August Hagberg)
24 No 1 'Kom nu hit, död' ('Come Away, Death')
Lento (originally with guitar accompaniment - orchestrated by the composer in 1957)
Jorma Hynninen, baritone
Jorma Panula, conductor

Die Sprache der Vögel (The Language of the Birds) JS 62 (1911)
Play by Adolf Paul
25 Wedding March (Act III)
Allegro, ma moderato con grandezza

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor (except Twelfth Night)

CD 5:

Belsazars gästabud (Belshazzar's Feast) Op 51
Play by Hjalmar Procopé - Concert Suite (1906-7)
1 Oriental Procession. Alla marcia (Moderato)
2 Solitude. Andante
3 Nocturne. Andantino
4 Khadra's Dance. Comodo

Scaramouche Op 71 (1913)
Pantomime by Poul Knudsen and Mikael Trepka Bloch

Act I
5 Scene 1. Lento assai
6 Scene 2. [Lento assai, continued]
7 Scene 3. [Lento assai, continued] - Un poco meno lento - Andante con moto
8 Scene 4. Tempo di bolero
9 Scene 5. [Tempo di bolero, continued] - Lento assai - Allegro moderato - Energico - Più energico - Risoluto - Grave
10 Scene 6. Tempo di valse
11 Scene 7. Poco moderato
12 Scene 8. [Poco moderato, continued] - Moderato
13 Scene 9. Tempo di valse
14 Scene 10. Adagio - Allegro - Molto tranquillo

Act II
15 Scene 1. Meno tranquillo
16 Scene 2. Allegretto
17 Scene 3. Andantino
18 Scene 4. Allegretto
19 Scene 5. [Allegretto, continued] - Tranquillo
20 Scene 6. [Tranquillo, continued] - Tranquillo assai [flute solo]
21 Scene 7. [Tranquillo assai, continued] - Adagio - Moderato - Allegro moderato
22 Scene 8. Allegretto - Allegro
23 Scene 9. [Allegro, continued]
24 Scene 10. Andante - Lento assai - Andantino - Tempo di Menuetto (lento) - Risoluto - Grave assai
25 Scene 11. [Grave assai, continued]

Petra Vahle, viola
Mats Levin, cello

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor

CD 6:

Pelléas och Mélisande (Pelléas and Mélisande), Op 46
Play by Maurice Maeterlinck - Concert Suite (1905)
1 No 1 At the Castle Gate. Grave e largamente
2 No 2 Mélisande. Andantino con moto
3 No 2a At the Seashore. Adagio
4 No 3 By a Spring in the Park. Commodo
5 No 4 The Three Blind Sisters. Tranquillo
6 No 5 Pastorale. Andantino pastorale
7 No 6 Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel. Con moto
8 No 7 Entr'acte. Allegro
9 No 8 The Death of Mélisande. Andante

Kuolema (Death) Op 62
Play by Arvid Järnefelt
Additional movements for 1911 production
10 Canzonetta. Andantino
11 Valse romantique. Comodo

The Tempest
Play by William Shakespeare
Prelude and Concert Suites (1927)
12 Prelude Op 109 No 1. Largamente molto

Suite No 1 Op 109 No 2
13 No 1 The Oak Tree. Andante sostenuto
14 No 2 Humoresque. Allegro comodo
15 No 3 Caliban's Song. Allegro comodo
16 No 4 The Harvesters. Allegro
17 No 5 Canon. Allegro (revised 1929)
18 No 6 Scene. Allegretto
19 No 7 Intrada. Berceuse. Largo - Andante sostenuto
20 No 8 Entr'acte. Ariel's Song. Poco adagio
21 No 9 The Storm. Largo

Suite No 2 Op 109 No 3
22 No 1 Chorus of the Winds. Largamente assai
23 No 2 Intermezzo. Andante con moto
24 No 3 Dance of the Nymphs. Allegretto grazioso
25 No 4 Prospero. Largo
26 No 5 Song I. Allegretto moderato
27 No 6 Song II. Un poco con moto
28 No 7 Miranda. Allegretto
29 No 8 The Naiads. Poco con moto
30 No 9 Dance Episode. Andante - stringendo al Allegro moderato

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor


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