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Sibelius: Symphonies No 3, 5, 6 & 7, Etc / Ashkenazy


Release Date: 01/13/1998 
Label:  London/Decca Double Decker Catalog #: 455405   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 30 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This set is likely, at least in part, to be a known quantity. Some will remember the component recordings emerging piecemeal during the dawn of digital technology from 1978 to 1983... Decca's recording balance is distinctive and it grips the jugular and does not let go.

The Third Symphony is freshly done. The attack is sharply etched. In the first movement, at 2.30, Sibelius seems to be skipping gears with an effect that sounds like a double intake and catching of breath. The interpretation excels in conjuring stillness. It is really quite special. Details are crisply presented to the listener and rhythmic material is eagerly propulsive.

[In] the Sixth Symphony...Never have the horns whooped with such rough
Read more exuberance contrasting with some of the mannered emphases that preceded the final flourishes. Ashkenazy, the incendiary, produces some smashingly adrenalin-pumping playing in track 7. This work is usually treated to a wan and rather fey atmosphere. I was 'brought up' on Karajan's DG recording which always sounded bled and albino. Ashkenazy infuses the work with a peculiarly Russian intensity.

If you allow Ashkenazy time to work his steady magic you will find much in his Tapiola - a work of studied contrasts. A host of details rise slowly or with unflinching force. The screeching gale from 15.33 perhaps gives us some insight into how another 'flammable' powerhouse (Evgeny Mravinsky) might have tackled this eerie work. The Philharmonia are on breath-taking form.

The Seventh Symphony starts in relaxed style - religioso - almost casually. This is not an imperious reading .... at least at first. The conductor is not trying to command the listener's attention. However things soon tighten and the music begins to speak of life, noble and tragic, rising from the slough that gave it birth. The music seems to know that it will sink back into that slough and form new material - ever renewing. While there is a hint of congestion, the way that Ashkenazy wrings out the jagged and corrugated lines of the foothills of the finale is memorable. However I still miss the hieratic bray of the Leningrad Phil's trombonist on the 1965 Moscow Mravinsky version (Olympia, BMG, EMI).

Ashkenazy is similarly successful in the Fifth Symphony where deliberation reaps rewards in stressing architecture. He is helped along by Decca's brand of recording balance perfection. While spotlighting so that every single instrument seems to register with stunning immediacy the recording leaves the listener unfatigued. The finale is rife with buzzing intensity, expectation and a power that is both raw and broad.

En Saga has the benefit of refined sound somewhat less glaringly lit than my continuing reference version - the 1972 Horst Stein-Suisse Romande recording from the same company. Ashkenazy is not quite as visceral as Stein and although Furtwängler 1942 Berlin version (on Fred Maroth's Music and Arts label) wipes the floor with both of them its vintage mono sound makes it contentious to recommend as a library version.

This set pulls no punches on the brass front. The Philharmonia sound satisfyingly statuesque, like a massive granite outcrop; just as harsh as Sibelius intended. The recording and the readings have the muscle of a juggernaut and the fragile precision of a steel butterfly. If you like your Sibelius to blaze and sparkle, with a bass that could turn molybdenum to dust then this is for you.

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
reviewing these recordings previously reissued as part of Decca 473590
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Works on This Recording

1. Symphony no 3 in C major, Op. 52 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907; Finland 
2. Symphony no 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1915/1919; Finland 
3. Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 104 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1923; Finland 
4. Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
5. En saga, Op. 9 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892/1902; Finland 
6. Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Finland 

Sound Samples

Symphony No.3 in C, Op.52: 1. Allegro moderato
Symphony No.3 in C, Op.52: 2. Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto
Symphony No.3 in C, Op.52: 3. Moderato - Allegro (ma non tanto)
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104: 1. Allegro molto moderato
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104: 2. Allegretto moderato
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104: 3. Poco vivace
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104: 4. Allegro molto
Tapiola, Op.112
Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82: 1. Tempo molto moderato - Largamente - Allegro modera- to
Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82: 2. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto
Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82: 3. Allegro molto
Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105
En Saga, Op.9

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