Notes and Editorial Reviews
These are excellent performances of their type: extremely clear, flowing, with great attention paid to details of string phrasing and articulation (critical in this music). They come close to Paavo Berglund's last cycle, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, though with a touch more atmosphere. The opening of the Fourth symphony typifies the approach: chords balanced so as to emphasize the grinding dissonances (as also in the "swan" theme for the horns in the Fifth's finale), and remarkably audible textural layering. It gives the music a very modern feel, the romantic elements decidedly downplayed.
Of course, there is a price. Climaxes tend to be underwhelming. The big central crescendo in the finale of the Fourth
fails to impress; neither does the climactic transition between the two halves of the Fifth symphony's first movement. Still, Pietari Inkinen's emphasis on lucidity gives the music a contrapuntal interest you might not have suspected that it had, and that compensates for the lack of sheer power. Such is the case in the Fourth's tragic collapse, while the finale of the Fifth really does achieve maximum force only at the very end. Most importantly, the performances have flow--try the Fourth's Tempo largo: very slow, but remarkably coherent and purposefully shaped.
The New Zealand Symphony plays very well throughout. The woodwinds distinguish themselves, and as previously mentioned, the string playing is impressively "Sibelian". Even the endless tremolos have meaning and character. The sonics aren't bad, but to the extent that the low end becomes a bit muddy and boomy in loud passages, it works against the interpretations. This seems to be a function of the venue. In sum, these are distinctive performances that Sibelians will surely enjoy hearing.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in A minor, Op. 63 by Jean Sibelius
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1911; Finland
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