Plenty of vibrancy but no lack of careful and sensitive dynamic gradation and spatial sense.
Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995) was a Sibelius champion. When Sibelius’s stock was still at rock bottom he recorded symphonies 3 and 7 for the Alpha label (later Saga). He worked with CFP and EMI on the symphonies and incidental music. RCA and then Chandos lined up beside him to allow him a cycle of the symphonies with the then SNO and a selection of the tone poems. He seems never to have had access to Kullervo – just before his time.
In the present case we have three Sibelius ‘pops’ with the most easily accessible of his symphonies. Gibson's Sibelius 1 is superbly recorded by Sean Lewis and Mike Clements. It hasRead more plenty of vibrancy but no lack of careful and sensitive dynamic gradation and spatial sense. This version is not up there with the mono Collins (Beulah) still less with the excellent Hallé/Barbirolli as part of the EMI complete edition. It is however a strong account and full of memorable insight.
I liked the passive turning away of the violins in the second movement of the Symphony at 2:35. The then ailing Gibson still masterfully held things together. If there is something a bit too suave and ordinary about the start of the final movement this is perhaps a reflection of the strength of the opposition. I hear that Eloquence may be issuing Okko Kamu's 1970s DG analogues of the Finnish RSO in Symphonies No. 1 and 2; the Lemminkainen legends are already out. While Kamu’s No. 2 always struck me as rather bloated the First was outstanding - ditto the Legends. The Kamu will be competition for the Gibson except that Gibson is available in the most resplendent full-fat digital sound.
The Karelia goes with tension and a welcome swing. It bubbles over most acceptably. Gibson's experience as a life-long Sibelian and a veteran of many recordings on Saga, Chandos, RCA and EMI shows through. This is a really good Karelia - romping and lilting. His Swan is excellent and catches the swell of the strings as well as Mravinsky without the high candlepower italicisation of the Morton Gould version I praised recently when reviewing an HDTT reissue coupled with Gibson’s Sibelius 5. His Finlandia is not quite as black-heartedly brazen as the version by Horst Stein on Decca but it is pretty good. It rounds off a Sibelius collection representing the great and good from his catalogue if shying away from regions of blazing genius.
Can I just exhort Alto to put out feelers for the rights to issue Loris Tjeknavorian's RCA recordings of Sibelius 4th and 5th symphonies. While they are at it they should add to their Simonov-Khachaturian CD from the same source Kachaturian's Symphony 1 again under the wonderful Tjeknavorian. There is a whole driven sub-market for LPs so that people can MP3 them and Tjeknavorian is the most likely conductor to benefit from that market. Let's find those original masters please!
Finlandia, Op. 26by Jean Sibelius Conductor:
Sir Alexander Gibson
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: Finland
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Luxurious RecordingNovember 15, 2014By Henry S. (Springfield, VA)See All My Reviews"The musical sound world of Jean Sibelius is distinct, even unique, and if performed properly, is strikingly majestic. Sir Alexander Gibson leads a 'proper' performance indeed of Symphony # 1, the Karelia Suite, Swan of Tuonela, and of course Finlandia. Here is a disk which can more than hold its own with the great, legendary Sibelius recordings. A Musical Concepts re-issue of an early 1990's Collins recording, it features exquisite orchestral discipline, powerful presence when demanded, and clean, tight sound. I find Sibelius' music absolutely fascinating and attractive, and after listening to this fine recording, I'm sure you will as well. Strong recommendation."Report Abuse
Rousing Karelia and First SymphonyJuly 27, 2012By Gail M. (Goleta, CA)See All My Reviews"Alexander Gibson is a fine Sibelius conductor, and these well-recorded performances do not disappoint. Highlights of this disk are the Symphony and the Karelia Suite. Sibelius' later style is still developing in Symphony #1, but the shifting moods of the primitive Nordic environment are fully displayed in this dramatic performance. Karelia gets a rousing performance, as does Finlandia. And The Swan is beautifully played. No negatives to report for this excellent recording of a fine selection of Sibelius pieces."Report Abuse