SIBELIUS Scenes Historiques – Inkinen
Recordings of this entrancing repertoire are always welcome, particularly when they are as polished and involving as this. A virtuoso fiddler and established chamber-music performer in his own right, Pietari Inkinen (b1980) studied under Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstam. He has recently taken up the reins as the NZSO’s music director and, on this showing, is a talent to watch. Not only does he draw some high-quality, notably zestful playing from his new charges, he directs both sets of Scènes historiques with such keen temperament, abundant character and sensitivity to texture and nuance that they come up sounding strikingly new-minted. Indeed, his generously expressive and pliable shaping of the ravishing secondary material in “Festivo” manages to stoke memories of Beecham’s indelible RPO rendering from the early 1950s (Sony, 9/03) – and that’s saying something!
As for the King Christian II suite, I was weaned on – and continue to have a very soft spot for – Sir Alexander Gibson’s affectionate 1966 recording with the RSNO (EMI Gemini – nla). Nor would I relinquish Petri Sakari’s Iceland SO version (Chandos, 7/93, which includes baritone Sauli Tiilikainen’s unforgettably haunting rendition of the “Fool’s Song” from Act 5) or Vänskä’s Lahti SO account of the complete incidental music (BIS, 6/99). Even so, Inkinen and his responsive band easily hold their own. There’s some particularly eloquent string-playing in the achingly wistful “Elegy” (where Inkinen distils a hushed intimacy that is deeply touching), while the dashing helter-skelter ride of the concluding “Ballade” has both invigorating spring and bite to commend it.
Boasting handsomely true and atmospheric sound, this collection certainly merits the attention of all Sibelians and represents enticing value at bargain price.