Sibelius: Symphony No 5 / Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra
Rca Victor Red Seal
Number of Discs:
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
*** This title is a reissue of a Japanese release with liner notes in Japanese. ***
Let's start with the tone poems. These always have been great performances. En Saga, with its acres of string ostinatos, surges with energy made all the more potent thanks to moderate tempos that let the players really articulate their parts. It also sports a climax that has the finest brass playing around, and while the sonics lack bass and are slightly compressed, the engineers get the balances exactly right. I have no doubt that remastering would open up the sound even more (and maybe give the bass drum better definition), but until that unlikely event occurs, this will do just fine.
Tapiola also is outstanding. This
probably is the best of all the slower versions: it lasts nearly 20 minutes, but there isn't a dull moment. It's usual to praise the Philadelphia strings, and they are wonderful, but it's the woodwinds that are particularly impressive here. Ormandy finds all kinds of creepy, ear-catching detail in this score, and he gives his players plenty of time to project it characterfully. Consider, for example, the eerie passage before the return of the second subject, where the woodwinds chortle and chatter like evil little imps. It's wonderful, and that big orchestra scream after the storm episode is all the more hair-raising for being so beautifully phrased.
I have to confess that I have always undervalued this recording of the Fifth Symphony, Ormandy's only one in stereo. The last two movements really are outstanding, fluid yet finely detailed, with one of the best endings you'll find anywhere. The final build-up defines the word "massive" in symphonic terms. But the first movement's coda seemed to lack the energy that others, such as Bernstein (Sony, not DG) brought to it. Listening again, it now seems all of a piece. Ormandy's ability to capture the dark atmosphere of the movement's first half is unrivaled, and the climactic transition to the second part is managed effortlessly. And if other conductors have managed a more physically exciting acceleration into the coda, this one has plenty of the necessary buoyancy and some pretty telling rhythmic articulation from the strings.
All things considered, even given the very tough competition, this interpretation oozes echt-Sibelian character while maintaining a vivid personality all its own. And as just mentioned, the tone poems are stupendous. A great disc, now available "on demand" from Arkivmusic.com.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in E flat major, Op. 82 by Jean Sibelius
Written: 1915/1919; Finland
Date of Recording: 11/18/1975
En saga, Op. 9 by Jean Sibelius
Written: 1892/1902; Finland
Date of Recording: 12/10/1975
Tapiola, Op. 112 by Jean Sibelius
Written: 1926; Finland
Date of Recording: 10/26/1976
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
MY FAVORITE December 9, 2011
By Gregg A. (Saint Paul, MN) See All My Reviews
"My Favorite is trite but I'm being honest. I have heard Sibelius' 5th live at Carnegie with Bernstein/Vienna and Ashkenazy/Cleveland (Vlad couldn't control the brass in the finale; chaos ensued). I've also heard most of the recordings in the last 30 years, and Ormandy's remains my favorite. David Hurwitz is right in his description of the finale (also that this performance does not attain the intensity of Bernstein's in its first half, but what it may not attain in intensity is compensated by majesty). Ormandy and his Philadelphians create immense, profound sonority and, blessedly, do not rush into those final chords (as, say, Von Karajan does, or Colin Davis); the tempo is insistent without being desperate (although I often wonder if in those four assertions before the last Sibelius was not himself desperate; it's always been clear to me that either he did not want to end the piece or didn't know how to). My RCA cassette must be 30 years old by now, and I've been intending to have a Pro drop it onto CD. So, I'm grateful, near to ecstatic, that Arkiv has reissued this sublime recording of that most sublime Symphony composed by a man whose work was so reviled by the critical panjandrums of Munich, Berlin and Vienna. If you've not read Alex Ross' chapter on Sibelius in "The Rest Is Noise," do.
Thank you, Arkiv."