peteAllen

Recommendations for Sibelius Symphonies

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Looking for recommendations for the whole series or individual symphony recordings. I have the Lahti cycle but it's too cold for me to want to listen to it often. I adore the HVK disc with Finlandia & Pelleas on it (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Smetana-Sibelius-Finlandia-M%C3%A9lisande-Pr%C3%A9ludes/dp/B000001GO2), so perhaps the Karajan cycle? Or there's a new cycle in the LSO Live series...

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Karajan never recorded no.3, and I don't think there is a consistent set of the reset - 1 & 2 are on EMI, while 4-7 are on DG. I find Karajan overpowers Sibelius IMO.

There are lots of good sets -

Sakari Oramo & CBSO complete set is very good. Same for Neeme Jarvi & gothenburg on DG.

Colin Davis first set with Boston Symphony is better than his later ones.

Lorin Maazel & Vienna Phil on Decca is worth a listen too - cracking 1960s analogue sound, CD remasters are very good. Slightly different approach to phrasing, Sibelius wasn't a staple of the Vienna Phil back then!

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Ashkenazy Philharmonia still sounds wonderful and is very cheap - full blooded approach that I find very satisfying, though I do have others inc Rattle, Davis ( Boston) and Blomstedt all v good

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Karajan never recorded no.3, and I don't think there is a consistent set of the reset - 1 & 2 are on EMI, while 4-7 are on DG. I find Karajan overpowers Sibelius IMO.

There are lots of good sets -

Sakari Oramo & CBSO complete set is very good. Same for Neeme Jarvi & gothenburg on DG.

Colin Davis first set with Boston Symphony is better than his later ones.

Lorin Maazel & Vienna Phil on Decca is worth a listen too - cracking 1960s analogue sound, CD remasters are very good. Slightly different approach to phrasing, Sibelius wasn't a staple of the Vienna Phil back then!

Absolutely agree with this post.

I've got the Maazel on original Decca WB - unbeatable sound, vintage Vienna ensemble. Stuff of my childhood, and now I have my father's and grandfather's copies of these lovely records.

The Davis Boston set on vinyl is also stupendous - what assured playing!

Rattle on EMI CD isn't at all bad. Jarvi has many good moments.

:^

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I agree with Tony, Ashkenazy presents the symphonies in a dramatic fashion which is great for getting to know the symphonies and when you don't want to be depressed for a week. Perhaps I am thinking of the fourth here. For that Karajan understands the conjunction of beauty and bleak tragedy. His version of the sixth is just about the most exquisite I have ever heard, transporting one to a foreign land where every thing is different but recognisable; a Finnish sunset more than a cold snowscape.

Dear old Colin Davis is a good general recommendation getting everything just about nicely balanced in each of his sets, perhaps slowing up too much as he gets older.

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Seconded, the Ashkenazi, Philharmonia set is wonderful.

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A bit left field, but Sir Alexander Gibson's recordings of the Symphonies with the SNO have always been highly regarded.

He was awarded Finland's Sibelius Medal in recognition of his distinguished service to the composer's music.

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I think you are in for much listening pleasure; Enjoy :^

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Okay, the Bernstein and Karajan sets arrived. Both really good. HVK recording much more detailed, whereas the Lenny one is a bit soft and more distant. Compared explicitly the last movement of #5, the Bernstein one has great intensity, and really builds and transitions well. The Karajan version is more dramatic and each part sounds grander, he also builds well but in a wagnerian kind of holding back sense, the BPO brass section is really great, better than the VPO. But at times the more dramatic wagnerian style doesn't work as well as the driving intensity of Lenny's VPO. In other movements I noticed that Lenny was very lyrical, and Herbie more structural and dramatic. So, based on limited comparisons of two of the recordings so far, the Bernstein/VPO seems to be more musical.

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I listened to Decca's Ashkenazy / Philharmonia vinyl set again last night. The Philarmonia are rightly famous for that string sound but on this set, it's the brass that's remarkably good. The Decca engineering is up to its famous reputation. I see Amazon are doing the symphony cycle with the tone poems and the violin concerto added for a crazy price. Bearing in mind that this is a great orchestra / conductor pairing with the famous Decca sound, £23 is a snip. I had to order it...

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The Gibson / SNO cd arrived. Sounds great. Somehow the phrasing makes sibelius sound positive. I was really enjoying the 3rd. Not so sure about the 7th. I switched to Bernstein for the 7th and wow, so much more scale, although it sounds like Wagner again (not that I mind really)

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Gibson's Karelia was my introduction to Sibelius as a school boy. Sandy was a gent, though I've a couple of choice quotes from people who worked with him. The chorus came in late on a performance of his Butterfly at Scottish Opera and one of them asked me if I could hear what he shouted at the stage (I hadn't). It was "you f***** ****s!!"

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I love late Sibelius and with apologies to the OP I think Vanska/Lahti SO is hard to beat, as a set. But then I prefer 'bleak' to 'lush'. Karajan/BPO should just be so wrong in this repertoire which really needs the authentic Scandinavian touch, and yet, actually in all the late symphonies he is marvellous.

I don't really listen to Symphonies 1-3 so

Symphony 4 - Karajan/BPO EMI version - radically slow in its day, completely deconstructing this bleak music.

5 - responds to the full-blooded approach, so I go with Rattle/CBSO here. (Or Blomstedt, Berglund, haven't heard Ashkenazy.)

6 - Karajan DG version, the sound is rather thin but that helps lower the temperature even more!

7 (my favourite) - there are 1 or 2 notable vintage recordings, notably Beecham/RPO. Of more modern recordings, well, slow is good and that puts Vanska near the top of the tree for me - but my current favourite is Sakari/Iceland SO.

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I'd go with Rattle's repetoire but paired with the CBSO.

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