For him the tone poem was the perfect vehicle for evoking the natural and supernatural world and it’s a genre he returned to again and again, even as he developed into a formidable symphonist. On this disc we hear examples of both a tone poem and a symphony, ‘Pohjola’s daughter’ from 1906 and the Symphony No 2 (1901-02).
As Colin Davis has drily noted, the intense sensory experience of being in a Finnish forest (‘perhaps after a couple of vodkas’) is sufficient to make characters from Finnish folklore seem entirely believable. In this piece the character is the siren daughter of Pohjola the moon god. Knowing herself to be the object of Väinämöinen’s affections, Pohjola’s daughter sets the love-struck wizard a challenge which he is sure to fail. His attempts to woo her come to nothing.
This may not sound like much of a scenario but in fact the orchestration is strikingly colourful (whichever was conceived first, the programme or the music, the fusion of the two is convincing). One short section is reckoned to have been the inspiration for Bernard Hermann’s music for the shower scene in ‘Psycho’. Exactly which bit will be easily apparent to the listener.
The Symphony No 2 is an interesting example of Sibelius’s early symphonic writing. The extravagant sound world now comes to terms with the challenge of a more extended form. Sir Colin Davis is an expert guide and the LSO sounds as burnished as one might expect after their many collaborations in this music. All seven symphonies recorded with the LSO and Sir Colin have been released as a set, but this is a nice one-off coupling for those who might want to ease themselves in gently.
James Mallinson, LSO Live Producer
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