RECORDS / Classical: Sibelius - Lemminkainen Legends; En Saga. Los Angeles Philharmonic/Salonen (Sony SK48067)

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The Independent Culture
Esa-Pekka Salonen is a conductor with many strong points, but the music of his own North European territory hasn't always been among them. His cycle of Nielsen symphonies with the Swedish Radio SO was particularly patchy. But Sibelius with the LA Philharmonic (which he takes over as Music Director this autumn) seems to be a different matter. This recording treads familiar ground in En Saga (where the main competition is the Ashkenazy/Philharmonia version on Decca) but less familiar in the four legends of Lemminkainen (the libidinous hero of the Kalevala) which apart from the Swan of Tuonela episode are not so often heard. It's chillingly evocative music to which the high gloss of the Los Angleles sound doesn't always yield. But the sound is superb, and Salonen handles it with style. A useful preparation for the mighty Scandinaviafest which is about to blitz the Barbican.