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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jean Sibelius - Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 (Osmo Vänskä)


Composer: Jean Sibelius
  1. Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: I. Allegretto
  2. Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: II. Tempo Andante, ma rubato
  3. Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: III. Vivacissimo – Lento e soave – attacca – 
  4. Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43: IV. Finale. Allegro moderato
  5. Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82: I. Tempo molto moderato – Allegro moderato
  6. Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82: II. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto
  7. Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82: III. Allegro molto – Largamente assai

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Date: 2011
Label: BIS



Vänskä’s American Sibelius cycle begins

Osmo Vänskä’s revelatory first Sibelius symphony cycle, made with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in the 1990s (reissued last year) formed the cornerstone of his international reputation. The ‘finest survey of the past three decades’ I hailed it last year. A decade and a half on, Vänskä has revisited the music with his new orchestra in Minnesota, and his interpretations have moved on.

So how do Nos 2 and 5 compare with their Lahti equivalents? They are every bit as compelling and intelligently realised. This time around in No 2 tempi are more flexible, for instance the heavier reining-in midway through the opening Allegretto, the very sedate start of the Tempo andante, ma rubato second span (two minutes slower as a whole in Minnesota but still teeming with drama), or the passage after 4'00" in the finale. The peroration is taken a touch too slowly for my liking (although the movement in total is now slightly swifter), just missing the incandescence achieved last time (and, indeed, by Järvi before him). Overall, I find the Lahti version’s flow more convincing but Minnesota’s has the added bonus of superlative sound and much rethought detail. No 5 has these same plus points and is a tad quicker now than 15 years ago. If anything, Vänskä handles the opening movement’s compound structure even better than before and the finale is just right, with irresistible forward momentum outstripping even Järvi. Thore Brinkmann’s superb sound reproduces with exceptional clarity every nuance of a finely balanced orchestral picture in a spacious acoustic (try the opening bars of the Fifth). Altogether, a fine start to what may be the benchmark cycle for the 21st century. Oh, and the notes by one Robert Layton aren’t bad either!

-- Guy Rickards, Gramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


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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