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Classical

Sibelius: Symphonies 1 & 4. (BIS, CD). Perhaps you've never ventured across Lahti, or its symphony orchestra, or its conductor, the owl-like Osmo Vanska, but in Finland they are all big news; and while Finnish news doesn't always set the rest of the world alight, it counts for quite a lot these days in music. New Finnish opera is among the most vital and successful work of its kind, anywhere. And the orchestral life of the country is looking up - thanks largely to developments in far-flung Lahti where the musicians probably don't have much to distract them from their dedication to the symphonies of Sibelius. The dedication registers with near-physical force on this disc, which launches an intended cycle of all seven (surviving) symphonic scores. The grandeur, strength and bleakness of the first two readings is enormously impressive, with a rugged radiance (if that isn't too great a contradiction in terms) which holds its own against the leading modern interpreters in the field: Ashkenazy, Jansons, Rattle, Davis. Not long ago these Lahti players brought out a recording (also BIS) of the first, discarded version of the 5th Symphony, and the quality of their sound took everyone by surprise. Their new disc proves it wasn't just a one-off lucky break. And it makes the rest of the cycle an exciting prospect. Michael White

JAZZ

Ornette Coleman: In All Languages (Harmolodic, CD, distributed by Verve). Re-release on one CD of a remarkable pair of recordings from 1987 made originally for the label Caravan of Dreams, named after a cultural centre in Coleman's home town of Fort Worth, Texas. In the first album, the original, re-convened Coleman quartet of Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins and Coleman himself, sounds as fresh as when they made "The Shape of Jazz To Come" in 1959. The second set, by Coleman's electric band Prime Time, revisits some of the same tunes, spiked by funk bass and cross-talking guitars. Though this convulsive sound (which still drives Coleman's music today) has been unfairly derided by snooty critics who think funk is in bad taste, it's wonderful stuff and not at all "difficult". The cheek- by-jowl conjunction of both acoustic and electric modes on the same CD makes this perhaps the most essential jazz album of the year. Phil Johnson

Paolo Fresu: Wanderlust (BMG, CD). The South African pianist and composer has been awfully quiet of late. In the years since his British success (he once played harmonium for a Krishna temple in Balham) propelled him to international fame, but his excellent album reinstates his claim to greatness quite emphatically. Produced by hip-bop trumpeter Graham Haynes, and featuring Ravi Coltrane (son of John) on tenor sax, with Elvin Jones on drums, it's entirely satisfactory and full of rich, memorable tunes that almost imperceptibly graft African rhythms on to the great bop tradition. PJ

Paul Dunmall Octet: Desire and Liberation (Slam, CD). Rumbustious tenor saxophonist - a regular partner of pianist Keith Tippett - and one of the most undervalued of contemporary players, in a Radio 3 recording of a Bristol Rare Music Club commission. Glorious swells of ensemble horn- play, a rolling rhythm section of Tippett, bassist Paul Rogers and drummer Tony Levin, combine with the heady, devotional themes (Dunmall was once a member of Alice Coltrane's orchestra), and all-round energy to produce a very listenable variant of free jazz at its beatific best. PJ

Ornet Coleman and Joachin Kuhn: Colors: Live From Leipzig (Harmolodic, CD). Though Coleman's antipathy to pianists is well known - indeed, his whole career can be seen as one flight of avoidance from the well-tempered scale - this duo with German pianist Kuhn makes for surprisingly good, and very tuneful, listening. PJ

POETRY

Murray Lachlan Young: Vice & Versa (EMI, CD). Would you pay pounds 1.1 million for a fruity-voiced toff enunciating satirical poetry? EMI would, hence this debut album by this 28-year-old star of stage and MTV, and opening act for the Pet Shop Boys. On black comedies such as "Simply Everyone's Taking Cocaine", he unbuttons his frock coat, brushes back his curls and arches an eyebrow at the AbFab world of supermodels and exhibition openings, although only on "The Life and Death of Art" is he anywhere near scathing enough, possibly because he's rather fond of the world he's satirising. There's not enough here to fill an album, either, so the rhymes are padded out with pastiches of glam rock and Russian marching music. You have to credit Young with having the courage of his bizarre convictions, but one can only assume that the seven-figure deal was simply EMI's way of making a publicity splash, and ensuring that Vice & Versa would be reviewed in papers that wouldn't have bothered other wise. Cunning. Nicholas Barber

POP

Minty: Open Wide (Candy, CD). The performance art scenesters present an album of new-wave guitars, pervo- disco backing and the most obscene song ever recorded. Imagine Bis, having had their sherbert spiked with very dangerous drugs indeed. NB

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