Mark Elder’s Sleepy Sibelius 5 & 7

Review by: Victor Carr Jr


Artistic Quality: 5

Sound Quality: 9

I haven’t heard a Sibelius Fifth this dull since Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony on a Vanguard LP, which was my first, nearly ruinous exposure to the composer. (Thankfully Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony on Philips provided the necessary corrective!) Mark Elder conducts the Hallé Orchestra with what sounds like a determined disinterest in the music’s color and dynamics. There’s no mystery or tension in the strings’ mini-windstorm early in the first movement, which concludes in a frustratingly tepid triumph.

The Finale brings even greater disappointment. The great “Thor’s Hammer” theme has the horns sounding more like an enfeebled accordion, and Elder manages to drain all of the drama out of the symphony’s normally captivating conclusion.

After this, it’s faint praise to state that Symphony No. 7 comes off much better. No, not a great performance like Berglund or Ormandy, but in this case Elder appears to actually like the piece. The introduction is a touch inert, but things get going by the central climax, with the trombones sounding strong and sure, and Elder and his forces do conjure a convincing conclusion. But this is a bit late to become interesting, isn’t it?

En Saga marks a return to dullness as Elder renders the work’s foundational dotted-rhythm motif in a peculiar legato fashion that smooths over the music’s inherent tension. Worse, the conductor’s restrained dynamics and expression make the big climax about as exciting as English mashed peas.

Fine recorded sound makes for well-upholstered boredom. You’ll derive far more enjoyment from the listed alternatives.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Davis/Boston (Philips); Davis/LSO (LSO); Berglund (EMI)

    Hallé Orchestra, Mark Elder

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