Sibelius: Symphonies 1-4/Abravanel

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 9

These performances have a lot to recommend them. Maurice Abravanel’s Sibelius always offers shapely, intelligent interpretations–and in some cases much more than that. This First Symphony certainly is one of the finest available, with a finale that’s simply the last word in excitement. The Third also is excellent, from the gutsy opening in the lower strings and fresh entry of the winds to the exhilarating lift that Abravanel brings to the closing pages. A performance in the grand manner, the Second hangs fire a bit in the outer movements (but that’s not exactly news in this work) while the Fourth sounds a mite too careful, the strings stressed in a finale that also features tubular bells rather than the customary glockenspiel.

The Utah Symphony plays very well for the most part, and the recorded sound, with woodwinds aptly balanced to the fore, ideally suits the music. There are better performances of a couple of the symphonies here, but Abravanel’s unvarnished, “warts and all” approach has an undeniable appeal best appreciated by those who know these works from the more standard reference recordings listed above and who are interested in a deeper exploration of some of the nooks and crannies of Sibelius’ symphonic thought. At the price, you can investigate at your leisure without fear.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Davis/BSO (Philips), Bernstein (Sony), Vänskä (BIS)

JEAN SIBELIUS - Symphonies Nos. 1-4

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