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Sibelius: Scaramouche, Op. 71 (1913) / Bendik Goldstein, viola; Roi Ruottinen, cello. Leif Segerstam, Turku PO

Album Summary

>Sibelius, Jean : Scaramouche, incidental music for a tragic pantomime for piano & orchestra, Op. 71
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

In the autumn of 1912 Jean Sibelius was commissioned to compose music for Poul Knudsen's surreal pantomime, Scaramouche, an experience that Sibelius soon regretted taking due to reservations about the production. Rarely performed today, Scaramouche is a curiosity within the Sibelius' discography. With the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Lief Segerstam featuring soloists Bendik Goldstein (viola) and Roi Ruottinen (cello).

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Turku Concert Hall, Turku, Finland (09/08/2014-09/12/2014).


"Sweet and Strange"
In 1912, Sibelius accepted a commission to provide music for Danish author Poul Knudsenís tragic pantomime Scaramouche. Although the work was completed in 1913, it was not until 1921 that the composer decided to fashion an orchestral suite utilizing the best portions of the score. Finally, a year later the work was performed complete with Knudsenís spoken lines. Critics applauded the music but were less enthusiastic about Knudsenís contribution. The drama centers on the commedia dellíarte character, Scaramouche. Instead of the archetypal buffoon, this lascivious Scaramouche is wily and possessed of strange powers. His introduction is initially disquieting and ultimately destructive. Employing a small orchestra of primarily strings, winds, minimal brass, percussion and piano, the composer provides writing that vacillates between the wistful, emotionally charged and strangely eerie. Here and there astute Sibelians will detect hints of other works, e.g. the 7th Symphony. For the longest time, a 20 minute suite assembled by conductor Jussi Jalas, as sanctioned by the composer, was the only way in which to experience this work. In 1990, Jarvi recorded the entire score for BIS, a benchmark achievement. It is now complemented by this equally fine version featuring Leif Segerstam who conducts with keen dramatic insight and is beautifully supported by the orchestra. The superb sound obtained by Producer/Engineer Sean Lewis is tightly miked, transparent and 3 dimensional. Excellent liner notes by Dominic Wells.
Submitted on 02/05/16 by Allen Cohen 
A welcome discovery
Leif Segerstam's traversal of Sibelius' orchestral scores has been a real treat for me. While I was familiar with the big hits (the symphonies, the Karelia Suite, the violin concerto, et al), I didn't have a complete picture of Sibelius' output, and where those great works fit into it.

This series has helped me gain greater insight into Sibelius' masterpieces -- and introduced me to some terrific music besides.

This installment features Sibelius' score for "Scaramouche," a full-length pantomime completed in 1913. Sometimes large ballet scores can be enjoyed equally as a complete work and as excerpted movements. After all, you don't need to know much about what's gone on before in "The Nutcracker" to enjoy the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies. "Scaramouche" is different, though.

The story is one of supernatural seduction, moving towards its inevitable tragic outcome. The score starts in a light-hearted mood, with charming folk-like melodies. But as the story progresses, the mood changes -- but gradually. To my ears, Sibelius' score (at least in mood) resembled his En Saga. There's an undercurrent of things not being quite right that moves closer to the forefront as the work progresses.

To me, that gradual building of unease is what makes this score so compelling. To hear just the opening scene or even something from the last part loses that context, and blunts the emotional impact of the music.

My recommendation is to listen to this work straight through -- and do so more than once. Only then, I think, can the subtle drama of Sibelius' score become apparent.

As always, Lief Segerstam delivers a straightforward interpretation of the music. It gives me the impression that Segerstam is trying to keep out of the way and let the music speak for itself. And that music is well-served by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, which plays -- as they have throughout the series -- with commitment and expressiveness.
Submitted on 08/17/16 by RGraves321 
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Works Details

>Sibelius, Jean : Scaramouche, incidental music for a tragic pantomime for piano & orchestra, Op. 71
  • Performers: Roi Ruottinen (Cello); Bendik Goldstein (Viola)
  • Conductor: Leif Segerstam
  • Ensemble: Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Notes: Turku Concert Hall, Turku, Finland (09/08/2014-09/12/2014); Turku Concert Hall, Turku, Finland (09/12/2014)
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1913