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Sibelius: Symphonies 6 & 7, Tapiola / Spano, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius / Spano / Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Release Date: 11/19/2013 
Label:  Aso Media (Label)   Catalog #: 1004   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Robert Spano and Atlanta already have delivered a very impressive version of the Kullervo Symphony for Telarc–a work that the conductor championed during his tenure in Brooklyn as well–and this new disc from the orchestra’s house label confirms his credentials as a convincing Sibelius interpreter. This is particularly true of the tricky Sixth Symphony, an elusive work that has confounded many of the composer’s strongest proponents. Spano sets a perfect tempo for the opening movement, sufficient to capture the tranquility of the opening while allowing the quicker main section to move smartly forward. Technically the entire movement proceeds in a single tempo, but this has proven almost impossible to convey in practice. Spano manages to do Read more it, even to the point of making the coda sound natural and less inconclusive than usual.

The slow movement poses few interpretive problems, but I also applaud Spano’s moderate pacing of the scherzo, which allows so much ear-catching detail and rhythmic interplay to come across clearly. The finale also presents major challenges of pacing (even Berglund never seemed comfortable with it), and Spano solves them as well as anyone, particularly in the culminating passage for strings toward the end–so beautifully played and balanced between the melody and its chugging accompaniment. It’s just about as fine a performance as we’re likely to hear.

The Seventh, too, has an inevitability about it that’s very powerful. The whole, single movement grows organically from the opening string chorale in this performance, with particularly well executed transitions between sections. The lengthy pastorale interlude never turns static, as it often can in those places where Sibelius pauses meditatively, while the closing pages bring the right feeling of culmination with just a touch of open-endedness (a function of Spano’s timing of the very last chord).

I had concerns about the length of Tapiola: nearly 20 minutes. Sibelius preferred a quicker tempo, but such is the clarity of texture and accuracy of rhythm that it never actually sounds slow. My only quibble is that the storm at the end really needs greater intensity and a less metronomic quality to the string figurations, but otherwise the performance is very evocative and atmospheric (that swift central bit, with rapid violin figurations and tiny woodwind and timpani fanfares, is especially magical).

There are a couple of moments–the approach to the recapitulation in the first movement of the Sixth, for example–where a bit more definition of the orchestra’s lower end would have been ideal, but the sonics are otherwise quite impressive. The producer, Elaine Martone, was responsible for many of the orchestra’s prior Telarc recordings, and she knows what she’s doing. These were not “in concert” sessions, apparently, but good, old fashioned, “studio” recordings, and so much the better. Putting Sibelius’ last three major concert works together on a single disc was a great idea, too. All in all, a treat for Sibelians.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 104 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1923; Finland 
Venue:  Woodruff Performing Arts Center, Symphon 
Length: 27 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
Venue:  Woodruff Performing Arts Center, Symphon 
Length: 22 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Robert Spano
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Finland 
Venue:  Woodruff Performing Arts Center, Symphon 
Length: 19 Minutes 45 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 All American Sibelius October 8, 2014 By bess holloway (Boulder, CO) See All My Reviews "Since Sibelius spent some time here in the United States, I appreciate this offering of his works by an American orchestra under the direction of an American conductor. It is in all respects a superb production. Including Tapiola was a stroke of pure genius! We are fortunate to have this fine orchestra among our nation's top musical organizations." Report Abuse
 Stunnung Sibelius January 2, 2014 By Joseph Lieber, MD (Great Neck, NY) See All My Reviews "Spano and the ASO present a beautifully played and recorded disc of the late Sibelius symphonies. The tension and flow are certainly present in this recording. Would relish hearing more recordings of the Sibelius symphonies from these forces!No question that many of the smaller labels, including those of the Orchestras, are turning out great recordings." Report Abuse
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