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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Jean Sibelius - Symphonies Nos. 3, 6 & 7 (Osmo Vänskä)


Composer: Jean Sibelius
  1. Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52: II. Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto
  3. Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52: III. Moderato – Allegro (ma non tanto)
  4. Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: I. Allegro molto moderato
  5. Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: II. Allegretto moderato
  6. Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: III. Poco vivace
  7. Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104: IV. Allegro molto
  8. Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105 (in one movement)

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Date: 2016
Label: BIS



As Osmo Vänskä powers into the home straight of his Minnesota Sibelius cycle, the first thing that strikes one about his newly minted account of the Third Symphony is the keenness of the articulation. It’s the aural equivalent of crisp, cold air.

Vänskä’s Sibelius is all about clarity – of rhythm, of texture, of intention. It is zealously unfussy and entirely without exaggeration. But it can stop you in your tracks. The ‘no-man’s-land’ we enter a few pages into the Third – a moment or two of reflection in a barren landscape – can rarely have sounded more like Sibelius’s ‘pure spring water’. But in the suddenness of the hush Vänskä manages to change the way the air moves in Minnesota Hall. I love the simplicity and limpidity of the second movement, and the gathering of energy at the heart of the third movement is tremendous – that’s where the resplendent final procession is generated.

The Third and Sixth Symphonies feel even more closely related than usual. The quietism of the Sixth speaks volumes. If ever a piece existed between the notes, this is it. In the seemingly negligible the considerable is to be found – like the tremulous darkening before the close of the first movement; a major event writ small. And that is especially startling on account of the luminosity surrounding it. There really isn’t much to say about a performance that just feels perfectly balanced – in music as in nature. I will add, though, that the evaporating final chord is startling.

And so to the almost but not quite conclusive Seventh – epic in all but duration, as grand and elemental as it is concise. Small ideas grow great with inevitability – a testament to Sibelius’s genius and Vänskä’s integrity. And it sounds splendid. This of all the symphonies seems to come up through the bass-lines, and as we approach the second major upheaval, the chromatic undulation of strings – the movement of tectonic plates – is perfectly in balance with what is happening above.

One just knows that the ear-pricking clarity throughout these performances is of Vänskä’s and not the balance engineer’s making. And as for that eleventh-hour resolution into C major, it is as emphatic as it is precipitous. The full stop that’s more of a question mark.

-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone

More reviews:
MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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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