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Finlandia | Swan of Tuonela | Oceanides | En saga | Valse triste King Christian II Suite

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THOMAS SØNDERGÅRD BBC NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES 1


Credits Tracklist Programme note Biographies

Finlandia | Swan of Tuonela | Oceanides | En saga | Valse triste King Christian II Suite

THOMAS SØNDERGÅRD BBC NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES


Š Bjarke Johansen 3

Assistant Recording Engineer Robert Cammidge

Post-production Julia Thomas

Recorded in BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, UK, on 27–29 November 2017 and 5 February 2018 Recording Producer & Engineer Philip Hobbs

Cover Image Photograph by Martin Bubandt

Design stoempstudio.com

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Jean Sibelius

75:06

(1865–1957)

THOMAS SØNDERGÅRD conductor BBC NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES

1 — En saga, Op. 9  

18:06

2 — Finlandia, Op. 26  

8:10

3 — The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22 No. 2   4 — The Oceanides, Op. 73   5 — Valse triste, Op. 44 No. 1   6 7 8 9 10

— — — — —

9:12

9:47 4:18

King Christian II Suite, Op. 27 Nocturne   6:53 Elegy   5:46 Musette   2:18 Serenade   4:32 Ballade   5:18

THE BBC RADIO 3 AND BBC NATIONAL ORCHESTRA OF WALES WORD MARKS AND LOGOS ARE TRADE MARKS OF THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION AND USED UNDER LICENCE. BBC LOGO © BBC 2014.

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Sibelius

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Finlandia | Swan of Tuonela | Oceanides | En saga | Valse triste | King Christian II Suite

Few would dispute that Jean Sibelius is deserving of a place in the pantheon of musical greats, above all for the towering achievement that comprises his magnificently searching and illimitably nourishing cycle of symphonies. Having already given us readings of four of the seven numbered symphonies (Nos. 1 and 6 appear on Linn CKD 502, and Nos. 2 and 7 on CKR 462), Thomas Søndergård and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales now shine a spotlight on a further two major strands of the Finnish master’s compositional output: theatre music and the tone poem.

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Towards the end of 1899, with patriotic feelings in Finland running high, Sibelius was asked to supply music to introduce and accompany a set of six historical tableaux. The event took place at the Swedish Theatre, Helsinki, and formed the climax to a succession of public meetings ostensibly held to raise money for the Pension Press Fund, but which, in reality, proved to be a vital focal point for the rising tide of Finnish nationalism. One month later, the great Finnish conductor Robert Kajanus successfully performed five of the six movements at one of his orchestral concerts; Sibelius subsequently overhauled three of the tableaux, and they appeared in print as his first set of Scènes historiques. Originally entitled ‘Finland awakens’, the sixth and final tableau was eventually named Finlandia, following a suggestion from an anonymous admirer (later revealed to be Axel Carpelan). Some years later, Sibelius wrote in his diary: ‘Why does this tone poem catch on with the public? I suppose because of its “plein air” style. The themes on which it is built came to me directly. Pure inspiration.’ Clearly, then, he was not unaware of the reason for the work’s popularity: its melodic appeal is inescapable (not least, that indelible hymn tune at its heart), the dark-hued orchestration entirely characteristic (especially in those glowering brass interjections at the very start), while the patriotic fervour and fierce pride it expresses can be genuinely uplifting. At the same time, he did not allow the work’s staggering worldwide success to obscure its true nature in relation to the rest of his oeuvre. After a Berlin performance directed by Arthur Nikisch in 1911, he noted: ‘Strange that all the critics who admire my music have disapproved of Finlandia being performed in Berlin. But everyone else cheers what, compared with my other work, is this relatively insignificant piece.’

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The Swan of Tuonela was completed in 1895 and subsequently revised for its publication in 1901. This magical (and immensely popular) essay comprises the second of Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Legends, a set of four tone poems all inspired by the Kalevala. Its origins, however, lie in an earlier project also based on the Finnish epic poem: this was the opera The Building of the Boat, for which The Swan of Tuonela was intended to serve as a prelude (and which, in 1894, the young composer finally abandoned after being overwhelmed by a Munich performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde). Sibelius himself prefaced the score with this brief description: ‘Tuonela, the land of death, the hell of Finnish mythology, is surrounded by a large river with black waters and a rapid current, on which the Swan of Tuonela floats majestically, singing.’ Against a harmonically progressive, magical backdrop of muted strings (most unforgettably so in those upward-shifting A minor triads at the very start), it is given to a mournful cor anglais to sing the Swan’s unearthly refrain. Eventually, the texture is disturbed by gently insistent string pizzicati, and suddenly, with a breathtaking switch into C major, an all-too-brief flash of sunlight floods across the icy waters (glinting harp arpeggios and distant, ineffably poignant horn calls). Thereafter, the strings intone a songful threnody, the mist rolls across the landscape once again, and the Swan continues on its unruffled journey, lofty and serene. In August 1913, Sibelius accepted an invitation from the wealthy American patrons of the arts Carl Stoeckel and Ellen Battell-Stoeckel to visit the United States. Stoeckel had inaugurated a music festival in Norfolk, Connecticut, and many prestigious contemporary figures (Dvořák, Bruch and Saint-Saëns among them) had already enjoyed his handsome hospitality. 4

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Stoeckel requested that Sibelius supply a new work for the 1914 Norfolk Festival. The resulting score was The Oceanides, arguably the greatest of Sibelius’s symphonic poems not to have a directly Finnish inspiration (according to Greek mythology the Oceanides were the nymphs who inhabited the streams and rivers of the Mediterranean). A fascinating genesis it has, too. Initially a threemovement suite (part of the manuscript of which resides in the library of Yale University, which also awarded the composer an Honorary Doctorate during his visit), it was recast in the single-span form we know today. Having dispatched the score to America at the end of March 1914, Sibelius promptly set about subjecting it to a radical overhaul, incorporating new material and altering its home tonality from D flat major to D major. He continued to revise the piece during the long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, a transformative experience which may well have affected his last-minute decision to drop the work’s original title of ‘Rondo of the Waves’. (The distinguished Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has appositely described the earlier version as ‘more like a large lake than a mighty ocean’.) Sibelius himself led the hugely acclaimed first performance on 4 June 1914 at a special concert devoted to his own music (the other works on the programme included Finlandia, Pohjola’s Daughter, the First Symphony and King Christian II Suite). In December of the following year, the composer also directed the European premiere in Helsinki as part of a celebratory fiftieth-birthday concert. Although The Oceanides is scored for large orchestra (including triple woodwind, two pairs of timpani and two harps), the sounds Sibelius creates are, for the most part, of quite extraordinary delicacy and subtle luminosity; indeed, it is unquestionably Sibelius’s most impressionistic orchestral canvas. All the material for this exquisite seascape is derived from just two

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ideas: the first, a lengthy, chirruping theme for two flutes heard at the outset, crops up on more than one occasion, thus lending the piece a formal character akin to that of a free rondo (a reminder, this, of the work’s original title); the second idea is much simpler, a plangent oboe call followed by an expressive, rising phrase on clarinet. The initial tranquil scene is gradually undermined, as storm clouds begin to appear on the horizon. Eventually, the music builds to a shattering climax, breathtaking in its physical power and effortless orchestral resource, before the work concludes in a mood of uneasy calm. Following the enthusiastic reception accorded to his large-scale Kullervo Symphony in the spring of 1892, Sibelius was urged by Robert Kajanus to produce a colourful orchestral work for inclusion into the popular repertory of the day, further observing that ‘many a composer has got rich with such a da capo piece’. Lasting some 22 minutes, the original version of En saga did not go down well with the Helsinki public at its 1893 premiere, and the composer immediately withdrew the piece. Only nine years later, when the composer Ferruccio Busoni invited Sibelius to direct En saga at one of his contemporary music concerts in Berlin, did Sibelius take the opportunity to comprehensively overhaul his tone-poem, and it is in this altogether tauter (and incomparably more imaginatively orchestrated) revision that the piece is customarily heard today. En saga draws on no specific programme for its inspiration; rather, it is music intended to be strongly evocative of the fantastical world of Scandinavian myth. Fantastical indeed are the sounds which assail the ear in the introduction; after the mysterious A minor opening bars and a subsequent pungent woodwind motif, divided spiccato strings form an eerie backdrop

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for the three-fold appearance of an eloquent melody in the bass – the first of three main themes in the work. Speed now picks up and we are launched into the main body of the work, marked ‘allegro’ and in the key of E flat major (which is, harmonically speaking, as far removed as you can get from the A minor tonality of the start). Two themes dominate: the first initially given out by violas, the second (in C minor) more assertive in nature. Over pedal points of extraordinary length and menacing insistence, Sibelius develops his material with all the persuasive, imaginative flair of an experienced story-teller. After an intensely poetic lull (where Sibelius boldly pares his instrumentation down to a mere four muted violins), we reach the riveting culmination of the whole work (and which surely comprises some of the most physically exciting inspiration in all Sibelius). Eventually, though, the mighty, cymbal-topped climax signals a return to the misty landscape of the opening, and, after a poignant reminiscence of ineffable beauty from a lonely solo clarinet, Sibelius’s intrepid vision fades from view. Sibelius penned his incidental score for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II in 1898. The action takes place during the sixteenth-century campaign waged by the Danish King Christian II (1481–1559) against the Swedish regent, and centres around the King’s infatuation with Dyveke, a Dutch girl of humble stock also loved by a Danish nobleman. Thwarted in his attempt to woo her, the latter poisons Dyveke, thereby provoking the wrath of the King who has him executed. The monarch’s escalating rage culminates in the ghastly events of the 1520 Stockholm massacre. There were originally just four numbers, to which Sibelius added a further three – Nocturne, Serenade and Ballade – for larger forces. All but two – a winsome ‘Minuet’ and the hauntingly beautiful ‘Fool’s song of the spider’ – made their way into the present, immensely attractive concert suite.

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The December 1898 premiere under Robert Kajanus greatly pleased the composer, who wrote to Paul: ‘The music sounded excellent and the tempi seem to be right. I think this is the first time that I have managed to make something complete.’ Kajanus subsequently took the suite on tour around Europe with his orchestra, and Henry Wood performed it in London during his 1901 Proms season. Sibelius successfully offered the score to Breitkopf & Härtel: not only was this the start of a significant relationship with the prestigious German publishing house, the suite was in fact the first of any of Sibelius’s orchestral works to appear in print. Overflowing with blissful radiance and tender warmth, the gorgeous opening ‘Nocturne’ never fails to ravish the senses. It is succeeded by a deeply-felt, heartrendingly poignant ‘Elegy’ for strings alone (originally the score’s curtain-raiser). This leads in turn to the irresistibly jaunty ‘Musette’, designed to accompany a dance by Dyveke, and entrusted to a pair of clarinets and bassoons above a bed of gently rocking strings. Apparently, the Helsinki public cheekily gave this catchy tune the words ‘Now I’m going off to Kämp again’, a sly reference to Sibelius’s favourite watering-hole in the city! Next comes a ‘Serenade’ of intoxicating fireside glow, and the suite concludes with the furious bustle of the ‘Ballade’. In the autumn of 1903, Sibelius supplied the incidental music for the symbolist drama Kuolema (‘Death’) by his brother-in-law, Arvid Järnefelt (1861–1932). The following year, he returned to the first of the six numbers (marked ‘Tempo di valse lente’), adding flute, clarinet, horns and timpani to the original scoring for strings and giving it the title of Valse triste – in which guise it has, of course, gone on to acquire worldwide popularity. Sombre and

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passionate by turns, this bewitching orchestral miniature originally accompanied a scene in which a dying mother imagines dancing with a partner who transforms into the figure of Death; her son wakes up to discover her lifeless body. Sobering to think that Sibelius missed out on a small fortune: he unwisely sold the copyright to all except his own versions of the piece to the Helsinki music publishers Fazer. They in turn blundered by promptly selling it on to their German agents Breitkopf, who went on to produce countless arrangements for salon, hotel and domestic consumption across the globe.

Š Andrew Achenbach, 2018

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Thomas Søndergård

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conductor

Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård is Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; prior to this, he was for three seasons Principal Conductor and Musical Advisor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. He has been announced as Music Director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra from September 2018. Søndergård has conducted many leading orchestras such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo Philharmonic, the Göteborgs Symfoniker, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, the Orchestre National de France, the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. 10


Søndergård is also an experienced opera conductor at home in mainstream and contemporary repertoire. Projects have included Turandot at the Bayerische Staatsoper, the world premiere of Scartazzini’s Edward II at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Luisa Miller and Tosca at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, Il

© Bjarke Johansen

viaggio a Reims at the Royal Danish Opera, and Tosca, Turandot and Dialogues des Carmélites at the Royal Swedish Opera. In 2011 Søndergård was awarded the prestigious Queen Ingrid Foundation Prize for services to music in Denmark.

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BBC National Orchestra of Wales

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For 90 years, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales has played an integral role in the cultural and classical landscape of Wales, performing to audiences across the United Kingdom, abroad and on air. Led by Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård, the BBC NOW has a unique role as both a broadcast and national symphony orchestra. Generously supported by the Arts Council of Wales, and part of BBC Wales, the Orchestra presents annual seasons in Cardiff and Swansea, and as Wales’ national orchestra is committed to championing Welsh music and musicians. BBC NOW’s performances can be regularly heard on the BBC, with frequent broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, with appearances biennially at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World and annually at the BBC Proms. In 2015 the BBC NOW visited South America for its most ambitious tour to date, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Welsh settlement in Patagonia with a community residency, followed by performances across Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

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The BBC NOW’s dynamic learning programming offers unique opportunities to develop musical skills and explore the world of classical music. Building on its extensive work with Special Educational Needs schools, the BBC NOW performed the first ever Relaxed Prom in 2017. The Orchestra’s home is BBC Hoddinott Hall, a world-class concert hall and studio in Cardiff Bay, where the BBC NOW continues its work as the United Kingdom’s foremost soundtrack orchestra working on programmes and films including War and Peace, David Attenborough’s Life Story and Louis Theroux’s My Scientology Movie; and has recorded music for the Doctor Who series for the last twelve years.

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© BBC

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BBC National Orchestra of Wales violin 1 Lesley Hatfield Leader Nick Whiting Associate Leader Lucy Baker Gwenllian Hâf MacDonald Terry Porteus Suzanne Casey Paul Mann Richard Newington Emilie Godden Kerry Gordon-Smith Anna Cleworth Robert Bird Gary George-Veale Alessandro Cannizzaro

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violin 2 Kate Suthers  Ros Butler Laurence Kempton Sheila Smith Katherine Miller Margot Leadbeater Beverley Wescott Michael Topping Debbie Frost Joseph Williams Sellena Leony Vickie Ringguth ■

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viola Rebecca Jones  Peter Taylor David McKelvay James Drummond Ania Leadbeater Robert Gibbons Catherine Palmer Laura Sinnerton Carl Hill Lowri Thomas ●

cello Joely Koos  Keith Hewitt  Daniel Bull Sandy Bartai Carolyn Hewitt Rachel Ford Margaret Downie Kathryn Harris ■

double bass David Stark  Christopher Wescott Richard Gibbons Claire Whitson Georgina McGrath Albert Dennis ●

flute Matthew Featherstone  John Hall Luke Russell

piccolo Luke Russell 

oboe Emmet Byrne  Amy McKean Sarah-Jayne Porsmoguer ■

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cor anglais Sarah-Jayne Porsmoguer 

clarinet Robert Plane  John Cooper Lenny Sayers

horn Tim Thorpe  Meilyr Hughes Neil Shewan  William Haskins Craig MacDonald ●

bass clarinet Lenny Sayers 

trumpet Philippe Schartz  Robert Samuel Andy Everton 

bassoon Jarek Augustyniak  Martin Bowen David Buckland contrabassoon David Buckland 

trombone Donal Bannister  Phil Goodwin

bass trombone Darren Smith  ◯

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tuba Daniel Trodden 

 Section Principal  Principal  Guest Principal  Assistant String Principal

timpani Steve Barnard  Phil Hughes percussion Chris Stock  Mark Walker 

□ ●

harp Valerie Aldrich-Smith  Ceri Wynne Jones

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Also available on Linn

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CKD 502 Thomas Søndergård BBC National Orchestra of Wales Sibelius: Symphonies 1 & 6

CKD 601 Robin Ticciati Scottish Chamber Orchestra Brahms: The Symphonies

CKR 462 Thomas Søndergård BBC National Orchestra of Wales Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7

CKD 590 Adler: One Lives but Once: A 90th Birthday Celebration

CKD 482 Jacques Imbrailo Alisdair Hogarth Sibelius & Rachmaninov: Songs

CKD 552 Oliver Knussen Royal Academy of Music Manson Ensemble Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale

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CKD 502

CKR 462

CKD 482

CKD 601

CKD 590

CKD 552

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