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Sibelius: Symphony No 2, En Saga, Luonnotar / Davis, Et Al

Release Date: 03/21/2006 
Label:  Profil   Catalog #: 5049   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Ute Selbig
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2. 1 En Saga. 2 Luonnotar 3 ? Colin Davis, cond; Staatskapelle Dresden; Ute Selbig (sop) 3 ? PROFIL PH 05049 (72:05) Live: 9/22/1988; 1 8/7?8/2003 2,3

Colin Davis is surely one of the most prolific Sibelius conductors on Read more records: in addition to two complete symphony cycles (BSO 1975?76 on Philips and LSO 1992?94 on RCA), there are recent accounts of four of the symphonies on the LSO Live label, to which we can presume the remaining three will be added in due course; and, most of the other orchestral works, among them Kullervo and the Lemminkäinen Suite , are included in the RCA ?Complete Collections? reissue of the LSO cycle. The Boston cycle was something of a breakthrough; only Bernstein in New York in the late 1960s had recorded the complete Sibelius symphonies in the US; now we have a performance of the Second from what was then East Germany, where Sibelius?s music was probably even less frequently played than here in America.

Of Sibelius?s seven symphonies, the Second is surely the most conductor-proof. While most of the other symphonies are full of pitfalls, I don?t think I?ve ever heard an unsuccessful performance of the Second, barring full-fledged incompetence. The present version, more similar to the Boston recording than to the London, is no exception. The approach to the first movement illustrates this: fairly fleet (both Boston and Dresden time in at exactly 9:40, compared with 10:11 for London), the Dresden emphasizes lyricism over drama, but both versions work; details are more finely etched in the Boston version, but that may be a factor of the studio vs. live recording. The remaining movements are all the fastest of Davis?s three versions: particularly striking is the brisk, unsentimental opening of the finale. The London version is writ large, and overall is the most dramatic, as well as the slowest, of the three (in fact, it is the slowest in total timing of the 16 recordings I own of this symphony, at 46:38); it is also probably the most impressive, with the help of RCA?s terrific sound. Incidentally, the fastest of the 16, at 38:47, is Kajanus?s legendary 1930 premiere recording, which of course is equally effective.

The sound is full and fairly vivid for a live taping. There is one significant glitch, though: a five-measure passage from early in the second movement?the bassoon phrase echoed by horns?is missing. My conjecture is either that there was an editing error (but how, if this was a single performance?), or a major horn clam, which Davis or the producer decided it would be better to omit. But then, why publish live concert recordings?

The two tone poems are from a pair of concerts 15 years later. En Saga is expansive at 19:22 but doesn?t ever seem to bog down; some pianissimos are difficult to hear, but otherwise the sound is fine, not unlike that of the symphony. Also, like the symphony, effective recordings of En Saga are not hard to find.

Perhaps the most significant item on the disc, potentially in any case, is Luonnotar , which I don?t believe Davis has previously recorded commercially. This performance begins magically, capturing the mysterious atmosphere of the string introduction as only Dorati has on disc; but the magic doesn?t last. Tempos seem to plod at times, and soprano Selbig suffers some intonation problems and is taxed beyond her capabilities by the demands of the fiendish tessitura. Again, Gwyneth Jones and Dorati on EMI are spectacular, with Isokoski and Järvi on DG not far behind. By the way, no text is provided.

For Davis fans, this disc provides an interesting comparison with the studio versions of the Second Symphony that precede and follow it; for completists, the Luonnotar will be a must, despite its flaws.

FANFARE: Richard A. Kaplan
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 2 in D major, Op. 43 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; Finland 
Date of Recording: 09/22/1988 
Length: 42 Minutes 49 Secs. 
En saga, Op. 9 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892/1902; Finland 
Length: 19 Minutes 22 Secs. 
Notes: 07/07/2003 - 07/08/2003 
Luonnotar, Op. 70 by Jean Sibelius
Performer:  Ute Selbig (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1910; Finland 
Length: 9 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: Finnish 
Notes: 07/07/2003 - 07/08/2003 

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