In the course of the ongoing BIS Sibelius Edition – of which this disc is the 56th volume – recent releases have explored the chamber music of the great symphonist. After the works for violin and piano, the piano trios and – most recently – the piano quartets, the time has come for the genre which conductor George Szell described as ’the most perfect expression of human behaviour’. Sibelius’s masterpiece among string quartets is of course his Op. 56, Voces Intimae. But this the first of three discs dedicated to the constellation, focuses on the early works, composed when Sibelius was in his early twenties. Ranging from very brief sketches to the four-movement String Quartet in E flat major – the only previously recorded work on the disc – these are attractive pieces which bring pleasure to the general listener as well as new insights to the Sibelius fan. The highly informative liner notes helps us to discover foreshadowings of the Lemminkäinen Suite in the Scherzo in B minor as well as pre-echoes of Finlandia in Theme and Variations in C sharp minor.
Making their first recording for BIS, it is the Finnish Tempera Quartet which has been entrusted with bringing these forgotten works to the public. This young ensemble was selected for the ‘Rising Stars’ scheme of the European Concert Hall Organization during the 2000-01 season, which has led to successful début recitals at Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Musikverein and Concertgebouw and other prestigious venues.