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Friday, August 25, 2017

Jean Sibelius - Tone Poems (Herbert von Karajan)


Composer: Jean Sibelius
  1. En Saga, Op. 9
  2. Lemminkainen Suite, Op. 22: II. The Swan of Tuonela
  3. Karelia Suite, Op. 11: I. Intermezzo
  4. Karelia Suite, Op. 11: II. Ballade
  5. Karelia Suite, Op. 11: III. Alla marcia
  6. Finlandia, Op. 26
  7. Valse triste, Op. 44
  8. Tapiola, Op. 112

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Herbert von Karajan, conductor

Date: 1976 (1, 2, 6, 8), 1981 (3-5, 7)
Compilation: 2005
Label: EMI




Herbert von Karajan was an excellent Sibelius conductor, and this disc contains mostly excellent performances of the six listed works. En Saga is thrillingly powerful, with one of the most exciting climaxes on disc. It would have been even more so if EMI and the Berlin Philharmonic could have figured out how to capture the bass drum with more impact; but with strings and brass going at full tilt there’s little cause for complaint. Indeed here, and in Finlandia and Tapiola, there’s none of that slickness that often afflicts Karajan’s work in, say, the standard German repertoire. He projects the menacing opening of Finlandia as have few others, bringing an almost expressionistic violence to the piece, and no one has ever captured the storm at the end of Tapiola with greater impact. Both Valse triste and The Swan of Tuonela are incredibly beautiful as well as atmospheric, and only the Karelia Suite comes across as somewhat droopy compared with the best performances. The analogue sonics are better than the digitals (Karelia and Valse triste)–but minor caveats aside, this is a powerful memento of Karajan’s gifts, and pretty stunning by any standard.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday

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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.


Herbert von Karajan (5 April 1908 – 16 July 1989) was an Austrian conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. Regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the mid-1950s until his death. He made a large number of recordings, mainly with his BPO and Vienna Philharmonic, and was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records. Karajan was admired and also criticized for his over polished sound of the orchestras he conducted.


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  2. With Karajan at the helm of Berlin Philharmonic, Sibelius truly shines.

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