Review by: Victor Carr Jr
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 8
This set collects Herbert von Karajan’s renowned DG Sibelius symphony recordings of Nos. 4-7 together with Okko Kamu’s less celebrated but no less worthy renditions of Nos. 1-3. The Berlin Philharmonic is the featured ensemble in all of the performances except for the Helsinki Philharmonic’s First and Third. Symphony No. 1 projects an electric excitement that carries throughout all four movements, while Kamu’s No. 3 emphasizes that work’s structural logic and rhythmic impetus. Kamu assumes the helm in Berlin for the Second Symphony, and the players provide him with polished execution and robust sonorities as he leads a performance of refreshing alacrity and spontaneity.
Karajan’s darkly objectified Fourth and monumentalized Fifth, along with his cool and luminous Sixth, are beautifully realized interpretations that have achieved classic status. The Seventh falls slightly short of that standard, as Karajan’s tempos tend to be stiff and unyielding, especially in the more urgent and impassioned passages. However, it’s the rare Sibelius symphony cycle that gets everything right (Bernstein comes pretty close), and this DG offering, with its marvelous playing and vivid, spacious recorded sound, effectively holds its own against the competition.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Bernstein (Sony), Davis (Philips), Vanska (BIS)
JEAN SIBELIUS - Symphonies Nos. 1-7