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Sibelius’s mastery of the orchestra is universally acknowledged – seven symphonies and a violin concerto, as well as a handful of tone poems, have long since secured his position. But his activities as a choral composer are less familiar to all but the most ardent of enthusiasts, particularly outside his native Finland. Therefore this excellent 2CD set of his complete works for mixed choir is to be warmly welcomed, offering new light on this endlessly fascinating composer as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth. As you might expect, the award-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under Heikki Seppänen sound completely at home in this material, which ranges from quasi folk songs, patriotic songs, music for huge song festivals intended for amateurs, school songs and hymns, as well as an arrangement from a cantata written for a degree ceremony and vocal versions of the ‘Finlandia’ Hymn utilising the slow central section of the celebrated tone poem. While one probably wouldn’t ever wish to play these two discs end to end, dipping in at random delivers its own rewards. There is always something to catch one’s interest. The EPCC are justly renowned for the warmth of their sound and they never disappoint on these beautifully recorded discs, which can only enhance their reputation.

PHILIP REED Read the full review on Agora Classica

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