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CULTURE: Mastering the coiled-up energy of Sibelius; Review CBSO Symphony Hall ****.

Byline: Norman Stinchcombe

The CBSO's trilogy of concerts Celebrating Sibelius ended with a thrilling performance of his second symphony.

Getting its carefully engineered finale to sound spontaneous requires great skill and conductor Sakari Oramo managed it perfectly. Sibelius has cunningly plotted the music's trajectory but its coiled-up energy should burst out with all the uncalculated power of a force of nature.

In this performance it did just that.

There was a feeling of animal vitality just being contained by the bridle-andbit of the musical structure. The thundering scherzo whirled itself into a frenzy but the famous oboe melody was fragilely beautiful, all underpinned by pungent brass and solid bass.

The Oceanides tone poem was given a performance of great delicacy, a contrast to the more extrovert joys to come.

The performance of Sibelius's orchestral song Luonnotar, by the conductor's wife the Finnish soprano Anu Komsi, was a revelation. Its entrancingly weird and wonderful vocal harmonies carried to the furthest corners of Symphony Hall, courtesy of Komsi's remarkable performance.

In the preceding song Kaiutar (Echo Nymph) her voice sounded quite small, perhaps a problem of orchestral balance, and I wondered if it would be suited to Luonnotar. But there was no lack of amplitude - Komsi bursting forth with such vocal resplendence that she seemed the very embodiment of the elemental force of nature the "handsome maiden of the air" of the song's title.

The popularity of the large-scale heroic second has overshadowed its successor. Yet in the third symphony Sibelius finds his very individual symphonic voice. It's a daring start too, a jaunty, slightly humorous theme on the low strings, and it was fascinating to hear it elevated and transformed by Sibelius's genius.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 28, 2007
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