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Sibelius: Complete Symphonies / Berglund, Bournemouth SO

Sibelius / Berglund,Paavo
Release Date: 01/22/2013 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 736002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 4 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Paavo Berglund recorded three Sibelius symphony cycles, but as is so often the case, the first remains the best. His second cycle, with the Helsinki Philharmonic, has slightly better playing but rather harsh, early digital sonics. His last run, with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, as the name of the ensemble suggests, is hyper-detailed but small in scale, designed more for the connoisseur interested in tiny subtleties rather than an all-encompassing view of the music. This first series of recordings offers the best compromise between spontaneity and Berglund’s love of studied precision, and remains a reference edition.

One of the secrets of great Sibelius conducting lies in the attention that conductors pay to the strings
Read more when they don’t have the tune. Strangely for a composer who almost became a concert violinist, Sibelius seldom gives the violins the main theme for any length of time, especially after the first two symphonies. He prefers the darker tone of the cellos, and of course the woodwinds. Orchestral string players usually hate the Fifth Symphony, which contains acres of tremolos, and yet the quality of those tremolos, as this outstanding interpretation reveals, is critically important to sustaining the music’s momentum and creating atmosphere.

Berglund then, himself a violinist, knew this and realized this aspect of the music to an unprecedented degree. His performances are miracles of phrasing, articulation, and textural transparency. And yet, at this point in his career he was still able to “let go” at the big moments in the First and Second Symphonies, and the Bournemouth Symphony’s comparative lack of polish (timbrally but not technically) serves as the perfect counterpoise to Berglund’s finesse, providing an edge to the sound that the music really needs.

The sample below, from the middle of the Sixth Symphony’s first movement, illustrates this idea and gives a good sense of what makes this set special: listen to the perfectly balanced flecks of color from bass clarinet and harp, the gleaming brass chords and gently “present” string ostinatos, all underpinning the main thematic ideas. This is the real deal. The only shortcoming of this set is the fact that it does not also include Berglund’s premiere recording of Kullervo. That would have been a logical choice, but if you care about this music then you simply have to make this set a lynchpin of your Sibelius collection.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in E minor, Op. 39 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; Finland 
2.
Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 43 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Finland 
3.
Symphony no 3 in C major, Op. 52 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907; Finland 
4.
Symphony no 4 in A minor, Op. 63 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; Finland 
5.
Symphony no 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1915/1919; Finland 
6.
Symphony no 6 in D minor, Op. 104 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1923; Finland 
7.
Symphony no 7 in C major, Op. 105 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paavo Berglund
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1924; Finland 
8.
The Bard, Op. 64 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1913/1914; Finland 
9.
Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1926; Finland 
10.
Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22: no 3, Swan of Tuonela by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1897; Finland 
11.
Kuolema: Valse triste, Op. 44 no 1 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1904; Finland 
12.
Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Finland 
13.
Finlandia, Op. 26 by Jean Sibelius
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 

Sound Samples

Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op.39: I. Andante, ma non troppo - Allegro energico
Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op.39: II. Andante (ma non troppo lento)
Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op.39: III. Scherzo (Allegro - Lento (ma non troppo) - Tempo I)
Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op.39: IV. Finale: Quasi una fantasia (Andante - Allegro molto)
Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, Op.64: I. Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio
Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, Op.64: II. Allegro molto vivace
Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, Op.64: III. Il tempo largo
Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, Op.64: IV. Allegro
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.43: I. Allegretto
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.43: II. Tempo Andante, ma rubato
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.43: III. Vivacissimo
Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.43: IV. Finale: Allegro moderato
Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op.52: I. Allegro moderato
Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op.52: II. Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto
Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op.52: III. Moderato - Allegro (ma non tanto)

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