Oramo Stuck With Sibelius?

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 7

Must all Finnish conductors make Sibelius recordings? Sakari Oramo did all of the symphonies and a batch of other orchestral pieces, not terribly interestingly, in Birmingham. Now he’s got the BBC Symphony, and we get more Sibelius. I wonder, if he were asked what he would really like to record and what music he loves the most, if these pieces would make the list. Mind you, the performances are good, and the coupling an interesting one. They just aren’t the most compelling versions around.

In the Lemminkäinen Suite Oramo paces the music just about perfectly (for a performance on the quick side). Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island probably comes off best, with the love music notably intense. Oramo places L in Tuonela second, and again delivers an urgent and, more importantly, cogent interpretation of a piece that sometimes comes across more as sound effects than a musically compelling statement. The Swan maybe lacks a touch of atmosphere, and L’s Return falls relatively flat, as it so often does. Here the playing is over-controlled and lacking in sheer guts. The engineering doesn’t help, with the brass backwardly balanced, and the acoustic seeming to suck the punch out of those hard accents that make the music so exciting. A pity when there’s otherwise much here to admire.

Spring Song is a short, surprisingly moody piece (it was originally called “The Sadness of Spring”) that, let’s face it, isn’t one of the composer’s best, while the suite from “Belshazzar’s Feast” features a scant quarter hour of orientalist fluff. It’s more colorful than Oramo allows, again possibly a function of less than brilliant sonics. For this and the Lemminkäinen legends, you’re better off with Segerstam on Ondine. Here’s yet another disc, then, that’s terrific in spots, but certainly not consistently so.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Segerstam (Ondine)

    Lemminkäinen Suite; Spring Song; Suite from "Belshazzar's Feast"

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