Sibelius: Symphonies; Tone poems/Berglund

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

This budget-priced eight-disc set contains some of the best of Paavo Berglund’s EMI Sibelius recordings. His symphony cycle with the Helsinki Philharmonic, while generally excellent, does not roundly outstrip his earlier one made in Bournemouth. These are cool, emotionally reserved performances, not as hyper-detailed as Berglund’s most recent go-round with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but also never lacking in tension or character (witness Berglund’s daringly deliberate tempo for the finale of the Sixth). Generally speaking, Symphonies Nos. 1, 3, 5, and 6 come off especially well. On the other hand, EMI has wisely included Berglund’s Bournemouth premiere recording of Kullervo, which has a rugged intensity missing from his digital Helsinki remake.

The performances of the incidental music and tone poems all sound splendid. Indeed, Oceanides, Pohjola’s Daughter, and Luonnotar never have been done better, and it’s nice to have the two cantatas Our Own Home and The Origin of Fire included as well. I do wish, however, that Ida Haendel’s recording of the Violin Concerto could have been added alongside her lovely renditions of the two serenades for violin and orchestra. There was plenty of room for it on CD 4. That caveat aside, this box truly does offer the essential Sibelius in one handy package, and in performances and sound of uniformly high quality. [2/2/2002]

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Symphonies: Davis (Philips), Vänskä (BIS), Misc. Boxed Sets: This One

JEAN SIBELIUS - Symphonies 1-7; Kullervo Symphony; Tone Poems; Incidental Music; Choral Works

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