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Sibelius: Complete Symphonies, Orchestral Works / Barbirolli, Halle

Sibelius / Halle Orchestra / Barbirolli
Release Date: 01/14/2014 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 8470624   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Sir John Barbirolli’s electrifying interpretations of the works of Jean Sibelius have inspired audiences all over the world. In a letter to Barbirolli, Sibelius declared himself to be a ‘devoted admirer’ of the conductor, adding that he was always happy to know that his compositions were in Barbirolli’s ‘masterful hands’. This collection features, among other works, the complete symphonies – including Barbirolli’s speciality, No.2 – the incidental music of Pelléas et Mélisande and that great symphonic poem, Finlandia.

Reviews of some of the recordings in this set:

Symphony No. 1
The First Symphony is given a stunner of a performance. It is taken at a fair old lick with the
Read more icy dazzle of the strings not in the least compromised. It is all very pliably and lovingly done without being at all languid. The Valse Triste steadiness of the second movement is notable - quite slow and with a shiver that chills to the bone. The Scherzo is tensely chiselled - throbbing sharply. The finale is on reins held commandingly in a Mravinsky-like grip - a tungsten-tempered hawser stretched to whip-tight breaking point. This is an electrifying interpretation. Barbirolli knows so well how to pace the emotion - pressing onwards then holding back in classic Tchaikovskian technique. An undoubted highlight of the set.

– Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

Symphony No. 6
The Sixth Symphony has none of the spotlit grand heroics of the Fifth. It is a work of serenity agreeably dominated by the strings and with melodic material suggestive of the Third Symphony. It is not a work of extremes: subtle but amply accessible although in a different way from the out and out romanticism of symphonies 1 and 2. The Barbirolli approach in this case is classically poised with plenty of passion of the smoothest hallmark. Listen to the furious attack of the strings at the start of the final Allegro Molto! I have heard more driven performances but this time Barbirolli hits what is, for me, the exact right note.

– Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

Suite from Pelléas et Mélisande
Sibelius's music creates in a few pages an atmosphere of doomed love. That, at any rate, is how John Barbirolli conducts the work in his performance of the suite recorded in 1967 with the Halle Orchestra. From the opening immense string sonorities of "At the Castle Gate," to the exquisitely tender English-horn-and-cello duet of "Mélisande," to the rushing strings and furtive woodwinds of "Mélisande at the Spinning Wheel," to the mournful "Death of Mélisande," Sibelius's suite drawn from the incidental music becomes in Barbirolli's hands a little symphony on the theme of loving not wisely but too well.

– James Leonard, All Music Guide

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Works on This Recording

1. Finlandia, Op. 26 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
2. Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Finland 
3. Pohjola's daughter, Op. 49 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1906; Finland 
4. Kuolema: Valse triste, Op. 44 no 1 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1904; Finland 
5. Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22: no 4, Lemminkäinens return by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895-1897; Finland 
6. Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 1, At the castle gate by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
7. Scènes historiques no 1, Op. 25: no 1, All' overtura by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Finland 
8. Scènes historiques no 2, Op. 66: no 1, The Hunt by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1912; Finland 
9. Symphony no 1 in E minor, Op. 39 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Finland 
10. Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 43 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Finland 
11. Symphony no 3 in C major, Op. 52 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907; Finland 
12. Symphony no 4 in A minor, Op. 63 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Finland 
13. Symphony no 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1915/1919; Finland 
14. Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 104 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1923; Finland 
15. Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
16. Reed, reed, rustle, JS 42 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
17. Scènes historiques no 1, Op. 25: no 2, Scena by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Finland 
18. Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 2, Mélisande by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
19. Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 7, At the spinning wheel by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
20. Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 46: no 9, Death of Mélisande by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1905; Finland 
21. Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22: no 3, Swan of Tuonela by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1897; Finland 
22. Rakastava, Op. 14: Suite for String Orchestra, Triangle and Timpani by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hallé Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911-1912; Finland 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  4 Customer Reviews )
 Dissapointing Sibelius July 26, 2014 By Joel Kahana (HAIFA, Israel) See All My Reviews "The combination Sibelius and Barbirolli is definitely has to be a succesful one,but not in this case .Unfortunately the symphonies except the sixth are played in a full and clanging tempo ahead. Sibelius is full of emotion but a good conductor ,desirable a Finish one like Segerstam or Vanske would be able to mark the silent points in the symphonies which are lacking here. The suites parts are too often wrongly chosed ,like Scenes Historiques mixed between part 1 and 2 and Lemminikainen picked version of shortened parts of the suite. Try vanska Bis and Segerstam Brilliance for much better results." Report Abuse
 Famous Sibelius cycle April 19, 2014 By Alex K. (Liverpool, United Kingdom) See All My Reviews "As with any recording of a great symphonic cycle, it would be wrong to look for complete definitiveness in one box, just as it would be unrealistic to expect each performance to have the same authority. But these performances make you want to throw realism out of the window. Barbirolli (perhaps unexpectedly, given his posthumous image) studied and conducted Sibelius over decades and when he came to record these works in the four years before his death (in classic rich 1960s EMI sound) he brought to them a lifetime's thought and passion. His approach brings out the works' inner fire and affinities with the Russian Romantics and Mahler rather than concentrating entirely on their modernity and the iron logic of the symphonic argument. These qualities are typified in the 4th symphony (with the 5th, my favourite of all these performances) which is less bleak and rigid than many more recent performances but utterly compelling and authoritative. Similarly the 7th, which is a far cry from the dispassionate exegesis of symphonic process that you often hear today. A slight pity that the Four Legends, the Pelleas and Melisande suite and the Scenes Historiques are given incomplete, and of course Kullervo is missing (how glorious would Barbirolli's performance of that have been!) but don't let that put you off acquiring this wonderful album." Report Abuse
 Sentimental Sibelius February 26, 2014 By V. Guernon (South Kingstown, RI) See All My Reviews "Sir John Barbirolli was always a heart-on-sleeve conductor, and he is no different in this set of Sibelius symphonies. For my taste, he is a bit overly romantic and sentimental in this music. This is Sibelius as it was usually played fifty or sixty years ago. As is usual with this conductor, the performances are strongly heartfelt, and, in their own way, very enjoyable. Barbirolli was a longtime champion of this composer. The recordings are from the 1960's and the sound is still very good. The Halle Orchestra, though not the most refined of orchestras, plays very enthusiastically and mostly very well. This is a good alternative set, but not the one I would take to a desert island." Report Abuse
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