Confirmation that Sibelius has found a new champion in the young Finnish conductor Peitari Inkinen arrives with this second survey on Naxos of some of the composer's less familiar orchestral music.
Following 2006's ear-opening coupling of the King Christian Suite and Scenes historiques, Inkinen is reunited with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, this time around a year into his tenure as the antipodean enemble's Music Director in a fast-developing partnership already beginning to bear rich and ripe fruit.
Illustrating a nocturnal journey towards a Nordic dawn, Night Ride and Sunrise sets off with a determined stride, strings and brass marshalled in a measured cantor that accelerates into an eager snare drum-driven gallop. Inkinen maintains a rhythmically forward-moving rein on proceedings, illuminating detail after detail to build persuasively through a brief and beautiful string-borne interlude towards the dramatic sunrise.
The intermezzo Pan and Echo - never more evocative on disc than here - acts as a haunting bridge to the Belshazzar's Feast Suite. Drawn from incidental music composed for a play by his fellow Finn, Hjalmar Procope, uniquely for Sibelius, it is infused with a smoky and exotic orientalism.
Inkinen makes much of the music's descriptive vitality, gorgeous dancing woodwinds standing in bright relief against a richly textured score, strings laden with emotion, the second movement Solitude altogether exquisite and the following Nocturne intoxicatingly pretty. The Khadra's Dance finale is full of telling incident and Inkinen exploits its now effusive, now hushed, always compelling drama to draw playing full of character and conviction from the New Zealand players.
In the impressionistic The Dryad, the sprightly Strauss-like lightness and surging romance of the waltz at its centre benefits from obvious care and attention. The castanet-inflected second Opus 45 Dance Intermezzo is dispatched with an agreeable lightness of touch.
There's more theatre music in the melancholically-tinged music for the play Kuolema (Death) by Sibelius's brother-in-law, Arvid Jarnefelt. The familiar opening Valse triste is delivered with elegant poise, the Scene with Cranes deliciously brittle and fragile. Two additional scenes - a reflective Canzonetta and the swooning Valse romantique - add to the considerable pleasure of this altogether accomplished disc.