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Cat. No. CHAN 9833 Price: £10.5 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 9833 - Sibelius: Piano Works
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Available From: 15 June 2000
Nobody, least of all the composer himself, would argue that Sibelius’s piano music stands at (or indeed anywhere near) the centre of his creative output. His own instrument was not the piano but the violin, and as a rule he resorted to the keyboard only for apologetic pot-boilers. It should be remembered that virtually all of this music was conceived for the home-bound audience, and not for a concert-going audience. Sibelius discouraged international publication, in the hope of confining them to his native Finland.

The first of Sibelius’s numerous so-called ‘salon’ pieces, designed strictly for domestic consumption, find him at his least resourceful. Even at his most charming they reflect his abiding unease in writing for the keyboard.

The much later Five Pieces, Op. 75 (1914), as their popular nickname ‘The Tree Suite’ suggests, were designed as a set, each ‘portraying’ a different tree. (Sibelius often emphasised his feeling of closeness to nature.) Following the success of the ‘Tree Suite’, it was no surprise that Sibelius followed it up with a similar suite of Five Pieces, Op. 85 devoted to flowers. By this time he seems less ill at ease with the piano and is acquiring a style of writing consistent with his orchestral writing.

At the time of composing his Five Romantic Pieces, Op. 101 in 1923, Sibelius was in a dark frame of mind, lamenting the disproportionate amount of time it took the write these miniatures, but it was these that kept the flow of much-needed money regular. The music is not as negligible as the composer suggested and there are moments which are genuinely memorable and inspired.

The Five Characteristic Impressions, Op. 103 show him closer to an idiomatic piano style, and if his ‘grand style’ is a little forced, there is a vividness of imagery in these little vignettes which is clear from the very opening of No. 1, ‘The Village Church’.

The Cinq Esquisses, Op. 114 (1929) which marked Sibelius’s farewell to the piano had a troubled start, as they were turned down for publication by Carl Fischer and not published until 1973. Ironically it was these that showed that he was embarking on a new phase of keyboard composition, marked by a significantly greater appreciation of truly pianistic resources and a move towards a steadily more abstract conception of composition as a whole.

‘…Tabe is a superb find, a breath of fresh air that makes the piano sing.’
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‘Kyoko Tabe is a reliable guide. She plays beautifully and has been accorded excellent sound’.
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‘The UK premiere of Takashi Yoshmatsu’s ‘memo Flora’ piano concerto was given exquisite treatment by Kyoko Tabe… Ms Tabe played it crisply and with great tona; imagination… piano playing at its most vibrantly romantic…’
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