Accessible, haunting music by a 20th-century master in an unfamiliar guise.
A recipient of the Sibelius Society’s medal, Eero Heinonen has long been a champion of the composer’s neglected output for piano. With this recording he continues to make the case for music that does not easily give up its secrets but, in the right hands, sings with Sibelius’s unique voice. Sibelius was not himself an accomplished pianist, but he wrote for the instrument – at which he composed – throughout his career, and maintained that, while often overlooked, its time would come.
In recent years his prophecy has come true, especially with the Op.75 suite of five pieces which he composed in 1914 and titled ‘The Trees’. They move from a Tchaikovskian melancholy common to much of his earlier piano output, through impressionist studies of light and darkness, to the kind of sombre, dissonant harmonies in the final piece (‘The Spruce’) which call to mind orchestral masterpieces such as En Saga and Tapiola.
Rather than cherry-picking from a considerable output, Eero Heinonen has chosen to present four complete opus numbers which nevertheless encapsulate the range of Sibelius’s piano writing. In the Six Impromptus Op.5 of 1890-93 he successfully integrates elements of Finnish folk music within the idiom of fantasy inherited from Schubert and Chopin.
The 10 Pieces Op.24 were written between 1895 and 1903 – formative years for the composer, in which he moved away from his German-influenced training and discovered for himself a more distinctively Finnish voice, but in this context still within the genre of salon pieces. These are the works most directly comparable with Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. Then, before the Op.75 masterpieces, he wrote a trio of Sonatinas Op.67 in 1912, around the same time as the troubled Fourth Symphony. The first of them, as played here by Eero Heininen, shares some of the symphony’s austere idiom and introvert nature. Every gesture is pregnant with meaning, often mysterious and tentative, even in the apparently offhand opening movement.
Jean Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer, is mainly known for his epic seven symphonies, but he wrote an fine corpus of piano music of surprising quality and originality.
In his piano works Sibelius is able to conjure up wonderfully effective and evocative moods, inspired by nature and the rich Finnish folklore. His piano textures are sonorously innovative and have a symphonic dimension, a combination of powerful expression and intimate delicacy.
Presented here are the Six Impromptus Op. 5, the Sonatina Op. 67/1, 5 Morceaux Op. 75 and the Ten Piano Pieces Op. 24.
Pianist Eero Heinonen is one of Finland’s foremost pianists, a veteran and authority in the performance of Sibelius’ complete piano music.