The excellence of this disc comes as a very pleasant surprise. After a tepid First Symphony it seemed like Inkinen was a conductor more comfortable with Sibelius' more classically restrained, late style. What's more, it's probably fair to say that the Second Symphony is the weak point in many complete cycles, partly because it has benefited from numerous superb singleton performances (see Szell, above), and so the competition is so much stronger than it is for, say, Symphony No. 6. That Inkinen's performance more than holds its own is therefore no mean achievement.
The first thing this interpretation has going for it is a wonderful flexibility of pulse. Particularly in the second movement and finale, Inkinen knows exactlyRead more when to push forward and when to relax. The result has excitement, spontaneity, and in the finale, no dead spots. Next, there is the exceptional care he takes over the string playing, energizing the merely accompanimental passages with characterful articulation, and in the scherzo giving shape and point to the music's general buzz of activity. With unusually transparent textures throughout, the woodwinds have no problem making their presence felt, and the brass acquit themselves honorably in the tuttis. As usual with this orchestra, the timpani lack a certain presence, but not terribly. The result is an interpretation both poised and passionate.
The Karelia Suite is also notable. Inkinen's tempos in the outer movements are relatively slow (which I personally like), but this only permits an unusual degree of detailing and a sharpness of articulation that never actually sounds sluggish. As already suggested, the acoustics of this venue aren't the best, but they certainly don't get in Inkinen's way, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the engineering as such. Given that Inkinen has the entire orchestra playing at a very high level of ensemble precision, this is definitely one of the better Second Symphonies of recent days.