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Sibelius: Symphonies No 6 And 7, Etc / Sakari, Iceland So


Release Date: 11/21/2000 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8554387   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Petri Sakari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It's amazing how late Sibelius, often regarded as enigmatic or for specialists only, has come into fashion in recent years. Complete symphony cycles have proliferated, and with them superb performances of the last two works, most recently by Paavo Berglund on Finlandia and Osmo Vänskä on BIS. We're even beginning to see live performances again after decades of comparative neglect. Petri Sakari's Sibelius cycle with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra concludes with this outstanding release, and like the conductors mentioned above, he's actually gotten better as he's approached the end of his musical journey.


The reasons for this aren't that hard to fathom. The first two symphonies work best when given the sort of
Read more high-powered Romantic approach more typical, say, of Tchaikovsky, while the later ones respond sympathetically to a more chiseled, "classically" restrained hand, and can sound particularly fine when played by a smallish orchestra such as Berglund's Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Vänskä's Lahti Symphony, or Sakari's Icelanders. In all three cases, the reduced size of the string sections permits ideal balances with the excellent winds and brass, and automatically gives the music the transparency of texture that it needs. This benefits even the comparatively heavily scored Fifth Symphony, at least when compared to the first two.


Of course, none of this would matter in the least if the conductor doesn't know his way around the music, and Sakari certainly does. His performance of the Sixth, perhaps Sibelius' supreme masterpiece in the genre, gets all the details right. The strings play eloquently and in tune, the crucial writing for harp and bass clarinet comes across clearly and without undue spotlighting, and Sakari's tempos, while on the slow side, reveal a keen understanding of the correct proportions. Most importantly, he executes transitions perfectly. Listen to how naturally the "Poco con moto" final section of the slow movement arises from the initial tempo, or best of all, the bridge passage from the finale's Allegro molto to Allegro assai for the last, valedictory statement of the principal theme on the strings. True, in order to hear a real "Allegro assai" you'll have to go with Bernstein (practically the only conductor who takes Sibelius at his word here); nevertheless, when heard in context with such fine playing, Sakari's interpretation works just fine. He also knows exactly where the symphony's single dynamic climax lies: letter J in the finale, where his triple forte really does expose the iron fist hidden within Sibelius' silken glove.


Symphony No. 7 is, if anything, even more impressive. The opening rising gesture, broadly conceived, really "launches" the music, and once again Sakari's sense of timing impresses. He gives that thrilling wind sequence over deep string tremolos (anyone who loves this work will know the exact spot) plenty of breadth, moving forward as the great string hymn begins and gathers strength like some great river current. He prepares the entry of the principal trombone theme as well as anyone, and the recording gets the balances exactly right: clear and majestic playing from the brass, but imbedded in a luminous aura of strings and winds. The transitions from this moment through the various, quicker episodes that ultimately lead to the central pastoral section all proceed with organic inevitability. One of Sakari's greatest achievements lies in his satisfying way with Sibelius' often abrupt endings. Both in the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies, there's no feeling, as there so often is in other performances, of the composer simply giving up and saying "Okay, stop," with a sort of musical shrug. In fact, I've never heard the closing bars of the Sixth's first two movements done better, and the Seventh's last page offers a satisfying sense of serene fulfillment.


As a bonus, the Second Suite from The Tempest shows off the very well trained Iceland strings to excellent effect, and sonically this release might well be the best in the series. Play it a little louder than you normally do other recordings, and everything snaps into focus. At Naxos' price, this disc represents a genuine bargain. No one who loves this music should miss it.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 104 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Petri Sakari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1923; Finland 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland 
Length: 30 Minutes 22 Secs. 
2.
Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Petri Sakari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland 
Length: 22 Minutes 45 Secs. 
3.
The Tempest, Op. 109: Suite no 2 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Petri Sakari
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1925; Finland 
Date of Recording: 2000 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland 
Length: 18 Minutes 10 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: I. Allegro molto moderato
Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: II. Allegretto moderato
Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: III. Poco vivace
Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: IV. Allegro molto
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: I. Chorus of the Winds
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: II. Intermezzo
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: III. Dance of the Nymphs
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: IV. Prospero
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: V. Song I and II
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: VI. Miranda
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: VII. The Naiads
The Tempest Suite Nos. 1 and 2, Op. 109, Nos. 2, 3: VIII. Dance Episode
Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105

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