This two-CD set of Sibelius’ mixed choir works encompasses the composer’s entire career, ranging from student works of the 1880’s to his final choral composition in 1947. The works are in a general chronolical order. The first disc focuses on works written between 1888 and 1902, while the second covers mainly 20th century compositions.
Listening straight through, I could hear how Sibelius refined his harmonic structures and his melodies became more sharply defined. It was also illuminating to hear how Sibelius managed to create music of real depth within some very narrow confines.
A good portion of the works, for example, were written for amateur choirs. And that usually means limited vocal range and modest rhythmic and harmonic complexity. While Sibelius kept the basic elements simple, he still used them in such a way as to create compelling music that is anything but run-of-the-mill.
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir sings with a steely precision that suits this music. Even Sibelius’ early works have a Finnish quality to them (I can’t think of any other way to describe it). The choir’s crystalline ensemble blend rings true with that inherent Finnish character.
Jean Sibelius: Complete Works for Mixed Choir
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Heikki Seppänen, director
2 CD Set
Ondine ODE 1260-2D