Jedermann – a rediscovered gem from Sibelius

The latest installment of Naxos’ Sibelius series features a rare and wonderful treasure — the music from Hugo von Hofmannthal’s play “Jedermann.” “Jedermann” is a re-imagining of “Everyman,” a medieval mystery play. The drama is an allegory of original sin and redemption, and Sibelius was inspired by the subject matter as he wrote.

Unfortunately, what Sibelius produced for the 1916 production wasn’t really incidental music. It more closely resembled a movie score. Sibelius was very specific about how the play and music should be paced so that key dramatic elements coincided with musical climaxes. Easy to do on film, but difficult to do in live theater. Over time, Sibelius’ music was dropped from the production, and all but forgotten.

Divorced from the stage action, as it is in this recording, the score to “Jedermann” works quite well. There’s a natural dramatic pacing to the movements, each setting its scene while moving the drama along. The rich harmonies and orchestration are pure Sibelius. It’s a shame he never made an orchestral suite of this music. But I’m glad that it’s being made available once again through this recording.

The album also includes Two Serious Melodies for Violin and Orchestra. Violinist Mikaela Palmu’s transparent performance lets the music come through in all its simplicity and beauty.

In memoriam  was completed in 1910 although the themes were developed earlier, The bulk of the work was composed after Siblius’ near-death bout with throat cancer. The somber music is so deeply personal in its contemplation of mortality that it seemed only fitting that it be performed at Sibelius’ funeral. This performance brings out the meditative nature of the music without making it sound lugubrious.

This is the sixth Sibelius recording Leif Segerstam and the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra have done with Naxos. And like the previous five, it’s one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Jean Sibelius: Jedermann, Op. 83; Two Serious Melodies for violin and Orchestra, Op. 77; In memoriam, Op. 59
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra; Leif Segerstam, conductor Pia Pajala, soprano; Tumas Katajala, tenor; Nicholas Söderlund, bass; Cathedralis Aboensis Choir; Mikaela Palum, violin
Naxos 8.573340

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