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SIBELIUS: Piano Music, Vol. 4 (Gary Cole/ Havard Gimse) (Naxos: 8.555363)


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Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)Piano Music Volume 4Lyric Pieces, Op. 74 Five Pieces, Op. 75 ThirteenPieces, Op. 76 Five Pieces, Op. 85 Six Pieces, Op. 94The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was born in 1865, the sonof a doctor, in a small town in the south of Finland. The language and cultureof his family, as with others of their class and background at the time, wasSwedish. It was at school that Sibelius was to learn Finnish and acquire hisfirst real interest in the early legends of his own country. In this society,linguistically, socially and historically divided, Sibelius was deeplyinfluenced by his association with the family of the Finnish nationalistGeneral Jarnefelt, whose daughter Aino became his wife. Nevertheless Swedishremained his mother tongue, in which he expressed himself with greater fluencythan in Finnish.The musical abilities of Sibelius were soon realised,although he had entered university in Helsinki as a law student. His firstambition had been to be a violinist, but his abilities here were far outweighedby his gifts as a composer, developed first by study in Helsinki, then inBerlin and finally with Goldmark and with Robert Fuchs in Vienna.In Finland once more, Sibelius won almost immediate successin 1892 with a symphonic poem, Kullervo, based on an episode from the Finnishepic, the Kalevala. There followed compositions of particular national appealthat further enhanced his reputation in Helsinki, including the incidentalmusic to the patriotic pageant Karelia, En Saga and the Lemminkainen Suite.During this period Sibelius supported himself and his wife by teaching, as wellas by composition and the performance of his works, but it proved difficult forhim to earn enough, given, as he was, to bouts of extravagance, continuing thepractice of his days as a student. As consolation for his disappointment whenhis appointment as professor in Helsinki was rejected, Sibelius was awarded in1897 a government stipend for ten years, later changed into a pension for life.The sum involved was never enough to meet his inherited gift for improvidenceand his seeming dependence on alcohol.Sibelius continued his active career as a composer until1926, his fame increasing at home and abroad. The successful First Symphony of1898 was followed by the still more successful Finlandia.  The acclaimed Second Symphony, in 1902,was followed by the Violin Concerto, a Third Symphony and, after an illnessthat put an end for the moment to any indulgence in alcohol and tobacco, aFourth, with travel to the major musical centres of Europe and internationalhonour. The Fifth Symphony was written during the war, after which Sibeliuswrote only four more works of any substance, the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies,incidental music for Shakespeare's The Tempest and, in 1926, the symphonic poemTapiola. An Eighth Symphony was completed in 1929, but destroyed. The rest wassilence. For the last 25 years of his life he wrote nothing until his death in1957 at the age of 91.In common with other composers of the period, Sibelius founda commercial market for his piano music, particularly for sets of short piecessuitable for domestic performance. Although his writing for the piano is seldomidiomatic, he composed a number of works for the instrument, the first from the1880s unpublished, as was the last set of pieces, written in 1929. The outbreakof war in 1914 found Finland, a Russian Grand Duchy, on the side of the Alliesagainst the Central Powers. For Sibelius this brought two particulardifficulties. Although means were found for him to receive royalties from hisGerman publishers, Breitkopf and Hartel, his concert tours abroad came to anend, and he was, in any case, seriously in debt. The shortage of moneycompelled him to turn his attention to a series of short piano pieces for theamateur market, interrupting his work on his Fifth Symphony for a regularseries of little piano pieces for his new publishers, Westerlund, and later forthe Danish firm of Hansen.The Four Lyric Pieces, Op. 74, written in 1914, start withthe increasingly elaborate Ekloge, followed by an evocation of the West Wind inthe arpeggios of Sanfter Westwind (Gentle West Wind). The cheerful pleasures ofthe dance are recalled in the third piece and the set ends with the nostalgicIm alten Heim (In the Old Home).The titles of the Five Pieces, Op. 75, of 1914 are names of trees.Originally six in number, the last of the set, Syringa, was later reworked asthe orchestral Valse lyrique. The charming Nar ronnen blommar (When the rowanblossoms) leads to the more solemn Den ensamna furan (The Lonely Fir). The Gsharp minor Aspen quivers from time to time, while the sturdier Bjorken (Birch)moves into a final section marked Misterioso. The final Granen (Spruce)introduces contrasting rhythms to vary the prevailing waltz metre.The dates of composition of the Thirteen Pieces, Op. 76,vary, the earliest, the first two or perhaps three, written in 1911 and someothers as late as 1916. Published by Westerlund in Finland and later by Hansen,they respond to the same financial needs and commercial realities. Esquisse andEtude are similar in figuration, and bells are aptly suggested in Carillon. Thecapricious Humoresque leads to a characteristic Consolation and the gracefulfiguration of Romanzetta. The seventh piece, Affettuoso, is marked Agitato andfollowed by a most uncharacteristic Pi?¿ce enfantine and a rapid Arabesque. TheC sharp minor Elegiaco marked Poco agitato is succeeded by the inventiveLinnaea (Twinflower of the North), marked Andantino con moto, the arpeggios ofCapriccietto and the whimsical Harlequinade.The Five Pieces, Op. 85, (The Flowers), date from 1916 and1917. The first has the name of the little red carpet-bedding plant Bellis. Thesecond, Oeillet (Carnation), is followed by Iris, with its ornamentation,Aquilegia and the inevitable bell-like sounds of Campanula.As the war drew to a close, other events overtook Finland,with the Russian revolution, the declaration of independence in 1917 and thebrief civil war of 1918, followed by continued division and unrest. The SixPieces, Op. 94, collected together in 1919, were principally written in thatyear, in response to the composer's financial predicaments. Danse, a waltz,opens the collection, followed by the earlier Nouvellette. The tripletfiguration of Sonnet leads to Berger et bergerette (Shepherd and Shepherdess),a dialogue between the two. After a brief introduction Melodie proceeds tojustify its title, and the final Gavotte frames a trio section in a contrastingkey.Keith Anderson
Facts
Item number 8555363
Barcode 747313536320
Release date 01/05/2003
Category Instrumental | Classical Music
Label Naxos Classics | Naxos Records
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Havard Gimse
Composers Jean Sibelius
Producers Gary Cole
Disc: 1
4 Lyric Pieces, Op. 74
1 No. 1 Ekloge (Eclogue)
2 No. 2 Sanfter Westwind (Gentle West Wind)
3 No. 3 Auf dem Tanzvergnugen (The Pleasures of the
4 No. 4 Im alten Heim (In the Old Home)
5 Pieces, Op. 75, "The Trees"
5 No. 1 Nar ronnen blommar (When the Rowan Blossoms)
6 No. 2 Den ensamna furan (The Lonely Fir)
7 No. 3 Aspen
8 No. 4 Bjorken (The Birch)
9 No. 5 Granen (The Spruce)
13 Pieces, Op. 76
10 No. 1 Esquisse
11 No. 2 Etude
12 No. 3 Carillon
13 No. 4 Humoresque
14 No. 5 Consolation
15 No. 6 Romanzetta
16 No. 7 Affettuoso
17 No. 8 Piece enfantine
18 No. 9 Arabesque
19 No. 10 Elegiaco
20 No. 11 Linnaea (Twinflower of the North)
21 No. 12 Capriccietto
22 No. 13 Harlequinade
5 Pieces, Op. 85, "The Flowers"
23 No. 1 Bellis
24 No. 2 Oeillet (Carnation)
25 No. 3 Iris
26 No. 4 Aquileja (Aquilegia)
27 No. 5 Campanula
6 Pieces, Op. 94
28 No. 1 Danse
29 No. 2 Nouvellette
30 No. 3 Sonnet
31 No. 4 Berger et bergerette (Shepherd and Shepherde
32 No. 5 Melodie
33 No. 6 Gavotte
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