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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jean Sibelius; Arthur Sullivan - Shakespeare's Tempest (Michael Stern)


Composer: Jean Sibelius; Arthur Sullivan
  • (01-07) Sullivan - The Tempest, incidental music, Op. 1
  • (08) Sibelius - The Tempest, incidental music, Op. 109/1: Prelude
  • (09-17) Sibelius - The Tempest, Suite No. 2, Op. 109/3
  • (18-27) Sibelius - The Tempest, Suite No. 1, Op. 109/2

Kansas City Symphony Orchestra
Michael Stern, conductor

Date: 2008
Label: Reference Recordings




Arthur Sullivan’s music for The Tempest reveals the 19-year-old as a serious talent. Yes, the music owes something to Mendelssohn–the Prelude, particularly, takes a few major hints from the Fingal’s Cave Overture. But the melodic inspiration is fresh, the orchestration vivid, the dance music aptly toe-tapping, and the brief postlude curiously moving in a way that actually anticipates the more reflective moments of the Sibelius that follows. Coupling these two works, one a barely known first orchestral essay, the other a late but still curiously neglected masterpiece, was a brilliant idea–a “concept” album that really makes good musical sense.

The playing order of the Sibelius also is very intelligent: Prelude (Storm), Suite No. 2, then Suite No. 1, which ends with a reprise of the Prelude’s storm music. Happily, both here and in the Sullivan, the performances are as smart, atmospheric, and vibrant as the music itself. Caliban’s Song and the storm episodes have impressive power, and they’re stunningly recorded in vintage Reference Recordings fashion. The more lyrical moments, such as the Berceuse and the various song transcriptions, are all beautifully played by the Kansas orchestra. The wind soloists are uniformly fine (listen to the flute in The Oak Tree, from Suite No. 1), and the harp, so important to the music’s “magic” elements, is wonderfully present without ever sounding spotlit. Only “Miranda” from Suite No. 2 sounds a touch edgy in the violins, the tempo slightly rushed. This and any other minor quibbles certainly aren’t enough to prevent me from recommending this new release in the strongest possible terms. It’s a winner in all respects. [7/23/2008]

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

More reviews:


Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. His music contributed to the development of a feeling of national identity in Finland where he is now celebrated as the country's greatest composer. Sibelius is widely known for his seven symphonies, the violin concerto and the tone poems, especially Finlandia and the Karelia suite. Throughout his career, the composer found inspiration in nature and Nordic mythology. He almost completely stopped composing after 1920s and did not produce any large-scale works in his last thirty years.


Arthur Sullivan (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer. He is best known for his series of 14 operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert, including such enduring works as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. Sullivan composed 23 operas, 13 major orchestral works, eight choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous hymns and other church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces. The best known of his hymns and songs include "Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Lost Chord".


Michael Stern (born 17 December 1959) is a noted American symphony conductor,  the son of violinist Isaac Stern. He studied under conductor Max Rudolf at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and worked as assistant conductor to Christoph von Dohnányi at The Cleveland Orchestra. He was chief conductor of the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (1996-2000), founding music director of the IRIS Orchestra in Germantown, Tennessee, and currently serves as the music director and lead conductor of the Kansas City Symphony in Kansas City, Missouri (since 2005).


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