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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jean Sibelius - Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 (Osmo Vänskä)


Composer: Jean Sibelius
  1. Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39: I. Andante, ma non troppo – Allegro energico
  2. Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39: II. Andante (ma non troppo lento)
  3. Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39: III. Scherzo. Allegro – Lento (ma non troppo) – Tempo I
  4. Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39: IV. Finale (Quasi una fantasia). Andante – Allegro molto
  5. Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63: I. Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio
  6. Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63: II. Allegro molto vivace
  7. Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63: III. Il tempo largo
  8. Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63: IV. Allegro

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Date: 2013
Label: BIS



Vänskä’s second Sibelius symphony cycle continues

Osmo Vänskä’s new Sibelius cycle continues with the First and Fourth, a pairing he evidently likes, as that is how he started his previous cycle in Lahti. As I noted with Nos 2 and 5 (4/12), Vänskä’s interpretations have evolved over time and are now notably quicker in tempi. In the First Symphony, the difference amounts to a few seconds in each movement – the Scherzo is actually longer by two (it doesn’t feel it!) – but in the Fourth Vänskä has shaved a minute from his Lahti recording, mostly in the third movement, Il tempo largo; the Allegro finale is curiously longer by 15 seconds, the difference in pacing again not obvious, balancing the quicker opening Tempo molto moderato.

This results, in both symphonies, in slightly tauter accounts. The passion and sweep of the First, where I feel Sibelius – intentionally or otherwise – beat the Russians at their own game in writing a symphony on the Russian model, is even more electric than in Lahti, rivalling Berglund’s classic Helsinki version and overhauling those by Järvi and (dare I say it) Sir Colin Davis. There is a richer, slightly fuller sound to the Minnesota players, particularly noticeable in the Fourth’s stark slow movement, while losing none of the majesty of the writing, especially at the climax. Matters are less clear in the Fourth; while there are differences of approach in all the versions compared, this most stylistically advanced of Sibelius’s symphonies emerges equally well as a hugely powerful utterance. With superb sound as always from BIS, this new disc has set the bar for all to follow and past ones to be measured against.

-- Guy Rickards, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / RECORDING: *****


Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. His music contributed to the development of a feeling of national identity in Finland where he is now celebrated as the country's greatest composer. Sibelius is widely known for his seven symphonies, the violin concerto and the tone poems, especially Finlandia and the Karelia suite. Throughout his career, the composer found inspiration in nature and Nordic mythology. He almost completely stopped composing after 1920s and did not produce any large-scale works in his last thirty years.


Osmo Vänskä (born 28 February 1953, Sääminki, Finland) is a Finnish conductor, clarinetist and composer. He was an orchestral clarinetist of the Turku Philharmonic (1971-1976) and Helsinki Philharmonic (1977-1982), and during this time, studied conducting with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy. Vänskä was chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (1988-2008), the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (1993-1996), and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (1996-2002). He has been music director of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2003. Vänskä has recorded extensively for the BIS label.


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