The Sound of Sibelius

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Finland's Lahti Symphony Orchestra may lack the name-brand cache of a Berlin, London or New York Philharmonic, but it can certainly compete with the big boys when it comes to countryman Jean Sibelius. The orchestra's colorful, idiomatic playing in "The Sound of Sibelius," is this week’s Full Rotation.

Over two decades (1988-2008), Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä focused the international spotlight on this orchestra based 60 miles north of Helsinki thanks to several international tours and a series of respected recordings for Sweden's BIS label. Today, Vänskä is the music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, where his authority and freshness in the core repertory have compensated for whatever glamour the mild-mannered 55-year-old may seem to lack. And he continues to record with his old band.

Comprised of new recordings and some older material, “The Sound of Sibelius” offers a sampler collection for newcomers to the composer’s orchestral music, but also something for the connoisseur, thanks to the inclusion of a few rarities. Among them is The Wood-Nymph, a melodrama that Sibelius suppressed but Vänskä revived in 1996. While it doesn't rank near the top of the Sibelian heap, it's still a delightful compelling glimpse into Sibelius' early method, with its powerful sonorities and overall moodiness. Also less familiar is Spring Song, a short early work with glimpses of Finlandia-like pathos.

Speaking of Finlandia… Even if you’ve heard that chestnut--or The Swan of Tuonela or Valse Triste--a thousand times before, Vänskä’s well-paced, detailed interpretations coupled with the Lahti band’s charismatically rough-hewn playing makes this recording worth a listen. The brasses really give the rousing Finlandia theme a punch, while the strings apply a supple lilt to the waltz rhythms of Valse Triste. Of course, not all is sheer ear candy with Sibelius either, and the Lahti musicians underscore the cool and unpredictable passages of the Lemminkäinen Suite (the Finnish equivalent of Homer’s Odyssey) with equal authority and brilliance.

The Sound of Sibelius

Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Available at

More in:

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Comments [2]

Martha from S. Fl.

Symphony #3 in C Minor! Wonderful performance. Thank you for broadcasting this live performance. Would have loved to attend actual perfornance a couple weeks ago - the thunderous applause made me feel as though I did!

Jun. 17 2010 10:59 PM
ronald sharon from monroe nj

still waiting to learn about promised
translators for central and southern
New Jersey. You continue to lose a
large audience from the Princeton
area that were loyal fans at 96.3.
Why not have a fund drive for
translator equipment ??

Jun. 17 2010 07:40 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Follow WQXR 


About Albums of the Week

The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.