Nice review. Listening thru the #4th tonite after all of your recommendations.... It does have a special nordic spirit to it after all. Will pass this on to my friends in the north.
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Sakari/Iceland on Naxos. Sakari knows how to take the tempo and pauses, the band follows Sakari's lead, all play with excellent tone and skill(no sour soloists). This Naxos recording really suprised me. I'm enamored with Sibelius music, and collect the sym. cycles, Berglund/Helsinki, Sanderling/Berlin, Segerstam/Danish. Barbirolli has some fantastic soloists, the pauses and tempo is not as tight as Sakari's, but still holds together in a wholesome musical image. Sakri's lack the polished soloists, but the tempo and pauses are pefect and offers a transparency, in other words the orchestra "disappears", leaving only the music to listen to. I "hear" (notice, whatever you call it)too much of the orchestra with the Berlin, Danish.(due to soloists, tempo, pauses too long, short). Though Berglund does offer a tight orchestra and tempo, the timings on most of the 7 syms are way too short.??? (cannot highly recommend Sakari/Iceland's Chandos recording)
Tweekerman, If you haven't already done so you should try Bergland and the COE as well as Vanska. I wasn't as fond of the Bergland/Helsinki as you so I had to be dragged to listen to the COE versions. These and Vanska are my current favorite contemporary sets of all of the Symphonies. I think you recommended the Sanderling set which I purchased about 6 months ago - it is, IMHO, the best economy set you can buy. It is now on Brilliant at less than $15 for the set! However, if your talking the 4th only, and you like it to feel like cold wind out of the artic, you should try Von K on DG or a personal fav of mine, Levine on DG. But before you waste your time I would point out that I don't consider Sibelius a romantic composer, so if you like Barbirolli you may not care much for these last recommendations.
Fortunately, we're blessed with a treasure trove of Sibelius recordings. I love Barbirolli's sweeping romanticism and I own the Vanska set (which is very lean and transparent in comparison). However, my favorite is the original set from the early and mid 70's performed by Berglund and Bournemouth. If you can find the lp originals on EMI, grab them. Otherwise, there's a great cd budget set on Royal Classics (licensed from EMI) which is available on UK. Well worth the s/h. Just listened to the 4th disc which includes Seventh symphony, Pelleas and Melisande, En Saga--and to use a cliche, it was a jaw-dropping experience. Who needs SACD when you've got this stuff?!
I've heard that description of Barbirolli's approach to Sibelius, romantic, with a negative connatation. Over "sentimental" could we say? Maybe, but I'm a romantist at heart. And just for the superb orchestra, the Halle, its worth the buy. Sibelius sym's have deep emotional passages, and some conductors/orchestras try very hard to draw forth the feeling, but lack of highly articulate orchestral members, the recording falls short. The Halle has an overflow of talent, and Barbirolli uses this abudance to shape a Sibelius sound that pentrates deep. Did not like Berglund's Chamber Orchestra of Europe at all. Vanski/Lahti does not offer anything new for me. Tempos and solosists are not up to Sakari's understanding. From the few takes I've listened to of Segerstam's new recording with the Helsinki, again I believe I hear an over-straining, a forcing effect, I don't hear this with the Barbirolli and especially with the natural flow of Sakari's approach. I'll give the new Segerstam a further review, the above are only first impressions.
I believe Baxter did so. Said he felt the Iceland, though good, did not offer the "big-band finesse" like the Berlin, and other major orchestras. Have to say alot of other recordings keep me within the concert hall, whereas with the Iceland I feel transported to the "Land of Sibelius", place and time lose their presence. Like all folk composers, especially with Grieg, Dvorak, the music should not have the "refined"(concert-hall) sound that Baxter mentioned. One should "see the land and sense the air".
Yeah greg, I did all those sibelius recordings with the Iceland S.O. Interesting to hear the commentary. I just saw this spanish movie with scenes of Finland, the Laplands. Man, is it beautiful up there. I agree with Tweek on some levels about capturing the earthiness of things, but on the other hand- Sibelius was one modern, sophisticated, complex music writing son of a gun. It's a tough balancing act. After your last review, I listened to the 4th several times.
I'm really interested in the Barbirolli, have never heard it.