It’s fair enough that those with a vested interest in Sibelius’s piano music want to give it more visibility than it has had before. This collection of all the published piano works with opus numbers comes a with a comprehensive booklet note (by Antti Häyrynen); sensibly, this doesn’t make excessive claims regarding what is, with exceptions, a mediocre area of Sibelius’s output.
Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957), was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely recognized as his country's greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.
The mutual admiration society that was Glenn Gould and Herbert von Karajan gave six concerts between May 1957 and September 1959 featuring Beethoven’s C minor Concerto (Berlin 1957) and Bach’s D minor (Berlin 1958, Lucerne 1959). Though neither of the Bach performances has appeared on disc, the Beethoven has had several CD outings. This handsomely packaged “official” transfer by Sony is the best we have had technically.
If you've only listened to Heifetz's crude interpretation of Sibelius's tempestuous and capricious concerto in the past, you might be incredulous after listening to this CD. "What? This is the Sibelius Concerto? It's a far cry from the one in my memory." After listening to it twice, however, tears should prick your eyes–the result of two gusts of contrasting emotions in one stroke: anguish over all the beauty, passion and subtlety you've missed in the past from this fabulous concerto, and jubilation at your new discovery of this supreme recording and the privilege to relish every bar of the music.
In 2007, the 50th anniversary of Sibelius’s death, BIS begins the release of a 13-volume edition of all the music that the great master ever created – from the symphonies and tone poems to chamber works and songs. As well as the published works, the edition includes rare original versions and world première recordings of works from his youth – material which to a large extent is unique to BIS. The edition – a grand total of some 65 discs – contains previously released as well as new material, in volumes of 4-6 discs sorted by genre.
The Norwegian pianist Håvard Gimse here includes two important sets of the piano pieces, Opp. 34 and 40, and the 6 Finnish Folk Songs, fifth of which, Fratricide, is slightly Bartókian. Sibelius’s contemporary and countryman Selim Palmgren put it perfectly when he wrote that ‘even in what for him were alien regions, [Sibelius] moves with an unfailing responsiveness to tone colour’, and Gimse brings finesse and distinction to this repertoire. This and the companion disc are first recommendations.