Classical Listening at Home: Songs from Sibelius; The Future is Female: Vol 2 | Classical music


Sibelius’ songs, each compressed into minutes, occupy a landscape as singular and powerful as his symphonies. Mostly written for voice and piano on Swedish texts, they are an integral part of the repertoire of the Finnish composer: he wrote more than 100 of them. Jean Sibelius: Orchestral Songs (Lawo), the Norwegian mezzo-soprano Marianne Beate Kielland and the Norwegian Radio Orchestradriven by Petr Popelka, brought together 18 songs in orchestral versions by, among others, Sibelius’ contemporary Simon Parmet; his son-in-law, Finnish conductor Jussi Jalas; and British composer Colin Matthews.

Keilland’s even tone, suppleness and brilliant sensitivity to the text make for a rewarding collection, the intensity and drama of each song powerful and passionate. In the opening song, Höstkväll, Op 38, No 1 (1903-4), the voice rises straight to the heights, mournful and anguished, while the orchestral writing – that of Sibelius – grinds down a haunting low chord. If you didn’t know it was about a lonely wanderer, a windswept lake and a darkening forest (texts are provided), you could easily guess, as this drama short and haunting is alive.

The Future is Female, Vol.  2, 'The Dance' Sarah Cahill, piano

The American Pianist Sarah Cahillthe project The future is female presents more than 70 female composers from the 18th century to the present day, from all over the world. Volume 2 (of three), Dance (First Hand; out October 21) opens with an elegant baroque suite, No. 1 in D minor, by harpsichord parts (1687) by Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729), musician at the court of Louis XIV, and brings us up to date with She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees (2019) by the Chinese-American cellist and composer Theresa Wong (born in 1976).

The pleasure of this album is the variety of styles offered, from Tango Si (1984) by Betsy Jolas to Valse de Saint-Petersburg by Meredith Monk (1997), via Clara Schumann, Germaine Tailleferre, Madeleine Dring and Elena Kats- Chernin.

To mark World Mental Health Day (October 10), music matters investigates the relationship between mental health and music with the help of Radio 3’s first Researcher in Residence, Dr Sally Marlow, mental health specialist at King’s College London; composer Gavin Higgins; and the City of London Sinfonia’s Sound Young Minds programme. Radio 3, Saturday, October 8, 11:45 a.m./BBC Sounds.

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