Sibelius album review – Yle, Finnish National Radio

“Klaus Mäkelä is only the third conductor to be signed by the legendary Decca label. So the traditional core of international art music is counting on Mäkelä’s charisma to carry the day, even if the conductor’s hand is harder to market than the soloists’ skills. This confidence is reflected in the boldness of Mäkelä’s Decca debut – when you pull out all the Sibelius symphonies at once, plus the Tapiola, you inevitably compare yourself to the best and most famous of all. In that comparison, Mäkelä comes out on top, at least in my book.”

“… Mäkelä’s interpretation can be summed up in the word ‘solidity’. The string writing in particular is tight and full-bodied, which becomes clear in the opening lines of the Tapiola, which have a unique fervour. Throughout the cycle, the delicate piano notes glow internally and the awkward gallop rhythms carry, because there is none of the thinness that Finnish conductors sometimes use to reduce Sibelius’s orchestral composition. Equally solid is the rhythmic treatment. Many others can execute the numerous stagings of Sibelius’s symphonies with aplomb, but in Mäkelä’s hands they take on a wonderful redemptive quality. Firmness also characterises the overall articulation of the music – the lines are rounded but bold and appealing.”

“Any solidity would not work if it built only one tension and one direction, but Mäkelä always builds a cross-lighting into the music. Even in the midst of a glorious glow, a dark silence always sprouts up next, and long, slowing strands weave themselves into the middle of a frenetic rhythm. Such ambiguity is not easy to unearth in a Sibelius suite, but that is what makes Mäkelä’s overall interpretation the best I know.”

“And sure, there’s that much-talked-about Scandinavian glory in the cycle, the kind promised by the blue eyes on the cover, but to my ears, Mäkelä’s Sibilian primeval forest hums with sturdy freshness, not wintry chill. Another testament to the auditory quality of the interpretation is the fact that, although the recording is slightly hummable, the details and the limits of the sounds are easily accessible.”

“For a Finnish music lover, the best Sibelius cycle is the one you happen to have grown up with. That is why I am not saying that everyone should get Klaus Mäkelä’s and the Oslo Sibelius cycles on their shelves and only listen to them. But I do argue that it is to this Sibelius cycle that many people become attached, and after that all the others seem muddy, inconsistent and otherwise wrong.”

Yle (Finnish National Radio), Kare Eskola, 31 March 2022

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