Ever since founding BIS in 1973, I have had a dream to record ‘every-note-he-ever-wrote’ by Sibelius – one of music history’s great treasures. The launch of The Sibelius Edition after decades of hard but gratifying work is therefore a matter of considerable pride to me.
It was in 1986, with the arrival at BIS of Andrew Barnett, that firm plans for the Edition began to materialize: one of the great Sibelius cognoscenti of today, he injected planning and system into the project. Great help was also received from the legendary Sibelius biographer Erik Tawaststjerna, as well as from Fabian Dahlström, the doyen of present-day Sibelius scholars.
Over the years the Sibelius family has been extraordinarily helpful and forthcoming, as has Sibelius’s main publisher, Breitkopf & Härtel (incidentally my own great-grandfather, Karl Fredrik Wasenius, was Sibelius’s first music publisher as well as a renowned music critic in Helsinki). Even so, much research has been necessary and without the efforts of the pianist Folke Gräsbeck, who also performs in many of the recordings, we would have got nowhere. And of course the project would have been impossible without the great number of fine musicians who have participated over the years, or the support from Tuomas Kinberg, general manager of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.
The greatest recognition is however due to Jean Sibelius himself – for creating music that now, 50 years after his death, is still as fresh, inspiring and deeply original as ever.
Robert von Bahr
THE SIBELIUS EDITION – an introduction
In 2007, the 50th anniversary of Sibelius’s death, BIS begins the release of a 13-volume edition of all the music that the great master ever created – from the symphonies and tone poems to chamber works and songs. As well as the published works, the edition includes rare original versions and world première recordings of works from his youth – material which to a large extent is unique to BIS. The edition – a grand total of some 65 discs – contains previously released as well as new material, in volumes of 4-6 discs sorted by genre. The release schedule for these boxes covers a period of 3-4 years, during which time the recording of as yet unheard music will continue – plans include extracts from early versions of many of the symphonies and Pohjola’s Daughter.
Each volume contains a capacious booklet – in English, Finnish, German, Japanese and French – with ample documentation and an authoritative text by Sibelius expert Andrew Barnett, whose biography of the composer is published in 2007 by Yale University Press.
The first two boxes, launched at the International Sibelius Festival in Lahti in September 2007, are entitled ‘Tone Poems’ and ‘Chamber Music I’. The final two volumes ‘Symphonies’ and ‘Miscellaneous Works’ are planned to appear in the spring of 2010.
The aim to present a Sibelius edition has always been a driving force for BIS Records. We have released more than seventy titles devoted to Sibelius’s music, and indeed a number of works – notably the symphonies – have been re-recorded over the years, and appear in parallel versions in the BIS catalogue.
These recordings have been greeted with the highest acclaim, and have often been
perceived as greatly contributing to a deeper understanding of the music of the Finnish master. Indeed, the Sibelius catalogue on BIS has become a goldmine for music-lovers as well as for musicologists. The success of this undertaking has been assured by the participation of such musicians as the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi, the Tempera Quartet, Monica Groop, Anne Sofie von Otter, Jorma Hynninen, Jaakko Kuusisto, Leonidas Kavakos, Dong-Suk Kang, Torleif Thedéen and Folke Gräsbeck. Access to rare scores – such as the original version of the Violin Concerto – has kindly been granted by the Sibelius family, with the cooperation of the publishers of Sibelius’s works.
Awards received by BIS’s Sibelius recordings include two Gramophone Awards, three
Cannes Classical Awards and two Grand Prix du Disque de l’Académie Charles Cros.