Thursday, December 22, 2005


Sibelius: Tapiola

by Andrew Clements
Friday July 6, 2001
The Guardian

In 1926, Sibelius produced his final work of any real significance: the symphonic poem Tapiola, which was premiered in New York in December that year.
As so often, the starting point was Finnish mythology - Tapio was the god of the forest, and his kingdom was Tapiola. But though some of Sibelius's orchestral writing is an evocation of that mysterious world - the whirling strings of the coda, for instance, inescapably conjure images of the wind through the forest trees - many analysts have treated the movement as a drastically compressed symphony, as a replacement for the lost Eighth (the score of which Sibelius probably burned). All the themes are intimately related, the gearing between the sections is seamlessly smooth, and the tonal plan starkly simple; Sibelius's technique is pared down to its raw essentials.
There are many fine recordings of this masterpiece, and a final choice depends to some extent on the couplings. For a long time, Herbert von Karajan's 1964 version was a firm recommendation (Deutsche Grammophon); that is currently available either with Sibelius's Violin Concerto and Finlandia, or with Nielsen's Fourth Symphony. Vladimir Ashkenazy offers a very effective performance as part of an all-Sibelius program that also includes Finlandia and En Saga (Decca). Neeme Järvi's Sibelius collection (BIS) is more adventurous - Pohjola's Daughter, and Rakastava as well as Tapiola, while Osmo Vänskä includes the work as an extra in the fininstallmentent of his symphony cycle, with the Sixth and Seventh. I'd go for Vänskä, not least because he is the greatest Sibelius conductor of today, but all the above performances are certainly worth hearing.
Key recording: Vänskä (BIS)

I have to disagree with Mr Clements.

The Beecham Stereo Tapiola is performance of rare magic, terror and power. Unfortunately its OOP, but I'll have my vinyl copy as a more than adequate reference.

Thank you for your addition of the Beecham to the recommended Tapiola recordings. Out Of Print recordings may be found in libraries, or even at e-Bay.

Mr. Clements is usually reliable, and OOP may be his dividing line for consideration in his articles.

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