Notes and Editorial Reviews
"With Segerstam, Sibelius is on his lap of honor right from the opulent opening measures. Well deserved, though: this is the best major-key symphony since Beethoven in my book, and one of the top 10 ever written. I’d also rate Sibelius the finest orchestral composer since Berlioz. What he does here with modest resources (no tuba or harp, just double winds) is earth shattering. For the most part, the strings, brass, and winds operate independently, with their own types of material and figuration. The tympani play a crucial connecting role, and there isn’t really a tutti texture until the harmonies cross over for that queasy resolution after letter R in the finale. After which, the notion of orchestration is kind of cancelled out for
those final six blows. Anyway, you all know the Sibelius op. 82 just as well as I do! Segerstam has looked afresh with his composer’s eye, and as you might have gathered, he’s got me excited about the work all over again. The Andante can seem an interlude, but not here: with an eye also on his Mahler experience, Segerstam keeps the Helsinki players (at their limit, maybe) up to tempo, obeys the markings, and delivers an effective, retrospective fantasy, before the excited crowd of strings ushers in the swan theme of the Allegro molto. He reins back the band for the last Un pochettino largamente (a big pochettino) and then denies himself a milk-them-dry conclusion by speeding conversely (Un pochettino stretto) for the final two pages. This is a fine, Nordic Fifth, on the big scale, and the recording gives you every strand, with headroom to spare. There are more elemental, more overtly characterful versions, and perhaps more moving ones, at the death. Segerstam and the HPO join the leading pack, though, and caught live, this team might steal the cigar.
Davis, Vanskä, Collins, and Kajanus are front-runners for the Third, but Kletzki is my pick. Collins has the best Allegro moderato. Segerstam, after a cold start, rises to the climaxes, bringing out the Mahler connections again, and finding a logical “solution” for those last two forte chords over the diminuendo on the drums to pp, closing-out that inspired coda. Fine work from the lower strings in the Andantino, and full credit, for once, given to the Schoenberg/Busoni evocations in the scherzo, before the theme ends debate. The work’s unique instrumental qualities and its audacious sound were never clearer."
Paul Ingram, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 3 in C major, Op. 52 by Jean Sibelius
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1907; Finland
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