After having cursorily perused reviews, I was fully expecting this fancifully titled album to consist of more unfinished "works in progress" and lesser sounding "original versions" unearthed by scholars and presented in the BIS label's continuing project to record EVERYTHING Sibelius ever put down -- how miscalculating I was!
Yes, perhaps only The Oceanides is generally familiar to music lovers (the album's title was this work's original working title), but every single track on this CD is a musical gem by any account! Hearing the so-called Yale version of The Oceanides and the two short fragments of a projected suite from which it sprang make one hear this stirring and evocative music anew. While the work's themes may have had their genesis at a previous time, it was actually brought to initial fruition in 1914 via commission the previous year, induced by an American scholar from wealthy American patrons. While Sibelius eventually reworked it, a completed score of this original version ended up in the archives of Yale University and was recently brought to light. (While I'm thinking of it, special props go out to Andrew Barnett, the gist of whose fine album notes can also be found in Chapter 11 of his 2007 book on the composer from Yale Press. Sibelius)
The original versions of Cassazione and Spring Song are especially alluring, while the two brief marches add an enlivening rhythmic jolt to a program that's wonderfully varied. Nine of the ten works presented on the CD represent world premiere recordings, making it definitely of interest to hardcore Sibelians. What I'm so bold to suggest, however, is that this music is so compellingly performed and recorded as to be a thorough delight for even the Sibelian novice or the aforementioned general music lover. Appropriately, the program ends with a hauntingly expansive performance of The Oceanides...the final version.