First published in the Guardian on 25 September, 2015
Nielsen/Sibelius: Violin Concertos etc
Skride/Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra/Rouvali (Orfeo)
It’s handy for the music industry that Sibelius and Nielsen share an anniversary (both 150 this year). The two Scandinavian post-romantics can be neatly paired on one sparse, pine-forested postcard, but what’s so enticing about this recording from the excellent Latvian violinist Baiba Skride — besides her gorgeously rugged sound and straight-up, natural delivery — is that she clinches the distinct voice of each composer. Her Sibelius spins a silvery chill before sweeping headlong into brooding, furrowed-browed melodies. She navigates the storms of the Nielsen less smoothly but then it’s a rougher piece, and exactly right that her attack is skittish, vulnerable and ballsy in quick succession. Her Adagio is simultaneously luminous and intensely sad — so beautiful that I had to listen to that movement on repeat. The Tempere orchestra sounds clean, supple and boisterous under its young chief conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali; he, meanwhile, is the latest sit-up-and-listen talent to emerge from the great Finnish conducting tradition.