In the Stream of Life
Songs by Sibelius
Gerald Finley, bass-baritone
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor
There is a story of a happy collaboration behind the recording of In the Stream of Life. Songs by Sibelius, that of bass-baritone Gerald Finley and of composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, a collaboration started after the composer listened to a performance of his setting of the Shakespeare’s sonnet Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? sung by the singer.
As it is known, Sibelius wrote more than one hundred songs, most of all in Swedish, for voice and piano, but their orchestral character got them rearranged for orchestra by Sibelius himself – and by many other composers even during his lifetime. This happened also for the cycle In the Stream of Life, the work which gives the title to this album, specially arranged for Finley by Rautavaara since, as the bass-baritone remembers in the booklet, «I needed guidance in pursuing orchestrations of songs by Sibelius for which few suitable arrangements were available». The new arrangement received its premiere in March 2014.
Rautavaara’s death shortly before the album release shifts the accent to his work, even if the album collects several wonderful songs which were arranged by others.
Finley is a marvellous singer and, in addition to all the qualities that it is possible to find in him, his voice suits this repertoire to perfection. The homogeneity and the beauty of his voice allows him to sing with what can be defined dramatic sense, giving these songs a strong and individual character. This is important also from a general point of view, since the language in which the songs are written is not accessible for many listeners.
Also three orchestral works by Sibelius are recorded here: Pohjola’s Daughter, the Romance in C Major and The Oceanides. These works have been wonderfully performed by Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. The strong character of the orchestra manages to emerge already in the songs, to the point that it could be considered a second voice rather than an accompaniment, but it is in these three works that the peculiar, crystalline sound of Sibelius’s music can be really appreciated. The natural elements so dear to the composer are clearly and powerfully expressed, to the point that they become stirring, especially in the powerful evocation of the tempest in The Oceanides.
In the Stream of Life is definitely a recording that deserves to be listened from the beginning to the end.