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Sibelius: Lemminkainen Legend

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (June 18 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Ondine
  • ASIN: B00000378L
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #70,291 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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1. Lemminkainen Legends, Op.22: Lemminkainen And The Maidens Of Saari
2. Lemminkainen Legends, Op.22: Lemminkainen In Tuonela
3. Lemminkainen Legends, Op.22: The Swan Of Tuonela - Sanna Niemikunnas/Veikko Hoyla
4. Lemminkainen Legends, Op.22: Lemmenkainen's Return
5. Tapiola, Symphonic Poem, Op.22

Product Description

Sometimes known as the Four Legends, these are Sibelius's earliest tone poems. Although very popular during the composer's lifetime, he eventually discouraged performances of two: Lemminkainen and Maidens of Saari and Lemminkainen in Tuonela. This was a real pity, for they contain some fantastic music, and all four make a perfectly natural and listenable cycle. Tapiola, on the other hand, was Sibelius's very last tone poem. A haunting study of Finland's northern forests, it features one of music's most terrifying storms. Leif Segerstam really pegs the storm, and just about everything else, in this superbly played and recorded collection. Very enjoyable. --David Hurwitz

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9fd80c48) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fdf16f0) out of 5 stars Not since the days of Hannikainen Sept. 26 2005
By Doug - Haydn Fan - Published on
Format: Audio CD
For many years I have treasured a recording of this work on an absolutely impossible to find Russian LP - I found it in a little odds and ends shop out in the Russian District of San Francisco. The conductor of this much earlier performance of the Sibelius Four Legends was Tauno Hannikainen and the orchestra, if you would believe it, was the USSR Radio Symphony. Hannikainen conducted under Rodzinski in the late 40's in Chicago, then became first conductor of the Helsinki Municipal Orchestra. Hannikainen recorded this piece sometime in the monaural era and his performance has remained largely untouched for all these many years.

What's that saying, "It takes a thief to catch a thief?" The fine modern composer Leif Segerstam here has caught the old master, and with the native Helsinki orchestra instead of the Russians, offers up a marvelously informed performance of this sprawling, wonderful musical epic. Segerstam's attention to Sibelius' evocative writing for woodwinds and the easy familiarity the orchestra's string players enjoy with the score's every phrase are thrilling. Sibelius played by Finns - what a great idea!

I rarely give five stars, but this is just wonderful music-making.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fdf1744) out of 5 stars Finnish pride and passion Nov. 25 2010
By Ralph Moore - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The first thing to note about this release is the extraordinary depth and richness of the recorded sound which reveals the subtlety and precision of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra playing music they clearly love. Their scurrying, tremolo strings, sonorous ascending horns and flickering flutes, so characteristic of Sibelius, could not be more impressive, yet nothing here is flashy or vulgar; the dark undercurrents of this wonderful music swirl and swarm beneath transient melodic ideas with the utmost subtlety and restraint as Segerstam builds and builds then lets his orchestra off the leash like "dogs of war".

The four Lemminkäinen Legends derive from the Kalevala, a 19C compilation of Finnish folkloric poetry and surely one of the most consistently melancholy and tragic of national epics. Segerstam's manner is ideal for these brooding tone-poems, which are now less often heard in their entirety, yet the lesser-known first two movements are no less haunting or atmospheric than the more celebrated "Swan of Tuonela" or "Lemminkäinen's Return". Goodness knows why Sibelius took any notice of the critic who lambasted the music, but he was a highly sensitive, complex personality, susceptible to criticism.

The influence of Wagner is of course most evident in the magical "Swan of Tuonela" which forms the bleakly beautiful emotional heart of this symphonic cycle. The pungent voice of the cor anglais is answered eerily by the sombre cello. After such intensity it is a relief to encounter the drive and derring-do of the last movement, exalting the warrior pride of the Finnish nobility and culminating in a stunning climax.

It is a great bonus to have Segerstam's "Tapiola" concluding the programme on this superb disc: twenty minutes of some of the strangest and most revolutionary tonal music of the 20C - "Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams" suffuse the sound-world.

Even if I did not feel drawn to this monument to Finnish national identity by virtue of my marriage to a Finnish-American, I would prize this disc as one of the finest of its kind I know. Others might remain loyal to the classic Ormandy recording but no-one could be disappointed by this newer recording in such gorgeous sound.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fdf1b7c) out of 5 stars Segerstam makes early Sibelius and late sound like genius Oct. 14 2007
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Once you've discovered Leif Segerstam -- not the easiest thing to do on this side of the Atlantic -- few others seem as satisfying in Sibelius. Segerstam brings the intensity and insight of a fellow composer (as Britten brings to Schumann and Elgar, or Knussen to Stravinsky). His Sibelius symphony cycle is ecstatic and sinewy, tough and heartbreakingly lyrical at the same time. These same virtues are applied to the Lemminkanen Suite, which despite its neglect outside Finalnd lays claim to being the composer's greatest work before the Sym. #2 and the Violin Concerto.

I'd only heard one convincing version before this, under Vassily Sinaisky with the Moscow Phil. That's a wonderful recording, but it pales beside the passion of Segerstam's performance, which is nothing less than hair-raising. I doubt that anyone could hear it without being galvanized. Two episodes -- The Swan of Tuonela and Lemminkanen's REturn -- have long overshadowed the other two "legends," so called becasue of their source in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. Once united, however, the heroic effect far exceeds the name of a suite -- this is a huge tonal mural.

Turning to late Sibelius, Segerstam unravels the bleak mysteries of Tapiola with equal conviciton. I hipe his efforts don't get merged with the countless other Sibelius recordings form Finland. This is world class music-making, beautifully recorded by Ondine.

P.S. 2010 - Segerstam's Lemminkainen Suite has serious competition, I now realize, from Neeme Jarvi's 1985 recording on BIS, which prospective buyers should also weigh in the balance.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fdf1f48) out of 5 stars A good set if you can find it Sept. 26 2014
By John K. Gayley - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I think someone made the argument once that Sibelius actually wrote 10 symphonies: the 7 we know, plus Kullervo, plus the mythical 8th, which Sibelius started, maybe completed, but probably burned, and then...the Lemminkainen Suite op. 22.

There's some truth to this (at least the Lemminkainen part) because these tone poems are symphonic in theme, flow and arc. Not perfect, but as symphonic as other things Sibelius wrote at that time. Yes, several of these are just dandy stand-alone pieces--who doesn't have their favorite version of "Swan?"--but they truly sound different when conceived and played altogether.

I have 4 or 5 other versions of these: two versions by Jarvi, one by Ormandy, One each by Vanska and Gibson, and several others I know I'm forgetting. Segerstam's ranks pretty high, and with Ormandy and Jarvi as company, that's saying something for this work.

I find I really like what Segerstam has done with Sibelius on his Ondine recordings, both symphonies and tone poems. I was less fond of his earlier set for Chandos (now on Brilliant Classics) which seemed mannered and self-indulgent.

This version of Lemminkainen is not mannered, and if its self-indulgent, its because Segerstam has his head totally into the picture the music creates...and how to convey it with the orchestra. Full of vigour, color, and very interesting shadings. He does things with the individual poems in this set that he might not do if he were playing one or two individually to fill up a concert bill. works. It sounds different, but just as valid, as the other renditions I have. I can't see living without the others, but I'm very glad I got this set. Highly recommended.

Also comes with a very good rendition of Tapiola. I've seen people almost come to blows arguing over their favorite renditions of this piece. I like Von Karajan's and Beecham's better, but this one is quite good (and I'm not one to get to fisticuffs over Tapiola--I reserve that for the 7th symphony.) In any case, the real draw here is the full Lemminkainen suite.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9fdf1ef4) out of 5 stars Top level Lemminkäinen Feb. 21 2013
By Tero - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Segerstam has done some Sibelius works with with what I perceive as more arrangement than interpretation. Not all his works are strictly by the score. But here, whatever he did, works. The Helsinki playing so precise, I think this may be the only one to beat Vänskä and Lahti.

Do not let the track order bother you. I simply burned a disc with Tuonela second, as most every other conductor does.

The Tapiola is fine to, nice end to the disc.