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Symphonic Music - Released February 7, 2020 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
After the resounding success of Volume 1 (Gramophone Editor’s Choice, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Diapason d’Or, Choc de Classica, FFFF Télérama), the project to record the complete Sibelius symphonies continues with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Santtu-Matias Rouvali, whose career as a conductor is entering top gear: he has just been appointed Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. At the turn of the twentieth century, as Finland struggled to free itself from Russian rule, Sibelius and his wife faced several domestic dramas, including the loss of one of their daughters, Kirsti, to typhoid fever. The Second Symphony, written in the brilliant key of D major, seems to be marked by the events of the composer’s private life, but many of his contemporaries nevertheless saw it as a political manifesto! In 1898, Sibelius composed the incidental music for Adolf Paul’s play King Christian II, the story of the downfall of a king of Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) in the sixteenth century. The suite derived from it was successfully performed in several European cities. © Alpha Classics
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Classical - Released September 11, 2015 | Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

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Symphonic Music - Released January 18, 2019 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Diapason découverte - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica
Alpha begins a complete cycle of the symphonies by Sibelius alongside some of his symphonic poems with Gothenburg Symphony and its new chief conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali. In the great tradition of Finnish conductors, Santtu-Matias Rouvali is known for his extremely physical and organic interpretations: ‘Music unmistakeably flows from him’, commented The Sunday Times. This was evident when, at a very young age, he stepped in to conduct a concert with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra which began the journey to his first tenure as Chief Conductor with the Tampere Philharmonic; a meteoric rise to a career working at the highest musical level internationally; and a third post as Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. When Bachtrack asked him how he shapes the orchestral sound, he replied: ‘I sing it, I move my hands the way I want it (…) the conductor should be able to show tempo somewhere in the body (…) I was also a drum kit player, so my feet and hands can do different things at the same time. When you read the score, you sing it in your head (…) I think it’s the sense of inside groove that you get from playing percussion which is very important in Sibelius’s music.’ In the Gothenburg Symphony he finds a prestigious cohort of musicians with an impressive discography, and joins a line of their illustrious musical directors, notably Neeme Järvi, the orchestra’s principal conductor from 1982 to 2004, but also Gustavo Dudamel, who is honorary conductor. © Outhere Music
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Classical - Released August 7, 2015 | Naxos

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The Naxos label has embarked on a series covering lesser-known works of Sibelius, performed by the little-known (outside Finland) but venerable Turku Philharmonic Orchestra under Sibelius veteran Leif Segerstam. They're well worth the time of Sibelius lovers, with clean, idiomatic performances that cover a side of the composer substantially lighter than that shown by his weighty symphonies. Many are associated with the theater, falling into genres like incidental music that really ought not to be forgotten inasmuch as they were the direct ancestors of today's soundtrack music. The music here is known to at least some listeners: Sibelius' incidental music for Maeterlinck's play Pelléas et Mélisande is performed often in a suite made by the composer, but recordings of the whole set of pieces are rare. The work makes an interesting counterpoint to Debussy's and Schoenberg's better-known sets of pieces, and if the listener can shake free of a linear view of music history, it stands up well to those. Sample the very sparse and powerful Mélisande's song (track 6), given a rich performance by soprano Pia Pajala; it's enough to make one wish Sibelius had been induced to apply his structural thinking to opera. The deep and unified final Andante from Act V could and should be performed more often as an independent work. After the Pélleas music is another piece of incidental music for an abortive project, a trio of waltzes (one vocal), and a little work from the end of Sibelius' career. There might be slightly cleaner versions of the Pélleas et Mélisande music out there, but probably not in a recording that gives the entire work. © TiVo
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Classical - Released October 4, 2019 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
Hannu Lintu here takes a stand against Paavo Berglund’s legendary version in Bournemouth, the very first of the discography recorded in 1970. Kullervo is a piece of work generally considered epic, a style not often explored by the Finnish composer, who had returned to Vienna at the beginning of the 1890s where he was able to submerge himself in Bruckner and discover some composers of the new generation. Here, Hannu Lintu dares to offer up a serene interpretation, with moderate contrasts in both the emphasis and the tone. For him, Kullervo stays within the defined category of Austro-hungarian music, even if it remains a singularly unique piece of music, as it does not demonstrate much of the modern and cutting-edge Sibelius which broke out from the 4 Legends of Kalevala and certainly over the course of the 1900s after the Second Symphony. Hannu Lintu privileges the ensemble line with regular post-Bruckner-esque balances, organised around polyphony, all the while underlining the freedom which escapes from the young Sibelius’ woodwind motifs. He also appears to snub typically runic Finnish popular influences, which notably guide the whole Introduction, an Allegro which is perfectly moderato. Kullervo transforms into a vast lyrical poem, meditative but somber (there are essences of the Violin concerto). From this vision are born some incredibly poetic moments, like in the third episode (Kullervo and his sister) as the choir sing their last lines just before the soprano (Johanna Rusanen, what a husky tone!) and the baritone (Ville Rusanen) begin their respective narratives, themselves just as astonishing in their dramatic power. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released May 31, 2019 | Chandos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra since 2013, Sakari Oramo has a special affinity with the music of his compatriot the Finnish composer Sibelius, which this recording admirably demonstrates. Sibelius’s ever-popular Lemminkäinen-Suite is complemented here with the early Spring Song and the lesser-known Suite from Belshazzar’s Feast. Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen-Suite (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22 in the 1890s. Drawing on material originally conceived for a mythological opera, Veneen luominen ("The Building of the Boat"), the suite focuses on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. In 1906 Sibelius composed ten numbers of incidental music for the play Belshazzar’s Feast (by Hjalmar Procopé), which was first performed in the Swedish Theatre in Helsinki in November of that year, the composer conducting. The following year, Sibelius extracted four of the movements to form the more widely known orchestral suite that we hear in this recording. © Chandos
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Classical - Released September 1, 2015 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
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Classical - Released July 3, 2015 | Naxos

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The symphonies of Jean Sibelius, which get played more often than any of his other music, are weighty, structurally complex affairs, but he had another side, often light and sparkling, that came out in his theatrical music and in other miniatures. None of the music on this collection from the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Leif Segerstam qualifies as familiar. The marquee item, the music for Belshazzar's Feast, a play based on the biblical Book of Daniel, is here presented complete, not in the suite that has been occasionally recorded. The rest of the music is a real miscellany, and lo, there is music here that conductors and orchestras should get to know better. The Belshazzar's Feast music contains some real gems, such as the terse final Dance of Death (track 13 -- it is this work that is "macabre," contrary to what the graphics say). The first two pieces started life as two movements of a symphony the young Sibelius abandoned; listeners can see why he gave up on it, but also hear him differentiating his symphonic language as he goes. The Processional, Op. 113/6, is a real rarity: part of a set of Masonic choral pieces Sibelius wrote in 1927, it was arranged for orchestra in 1938, becoming one of the last pieces of any kind Sibelius wrote. The booklet calls it "enigmatic," but actually it's a broad, idealistic melody in the Finlandia vein, and it's gorgeous. Likewise a find is the wedding march Die Sprache der Vögel, JS 62, tailor made for anyone wanting strong but unfamiliar wedding music. Segerstam is an ideal Sibelius conductor, flexible and alert to the boundary between interior and formal, and Naxos scores with the engineering from the small Turku Concert Hall. A must-have release for Sibelius lovers, and an unexpected pleasure for anybody. © TiVo
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Solo Piano - Released September 1, 2017 | Sony Classical

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Sibelius’s piano music remains a secret – chronically neglected or approached from an entirely unsympathetic aesthetic standpoint. Sometimes, criticism is justified. “I will be the first to admit that Sibelius’s piano music is uneven in quality”, says Leif Ove Andsnes, pointing to the composer’s own cynicism towards his piano works as a possible reason for the neglect of the genuine gems. But Andsnes also professes in no uncertain terms that he is “on a mission” to bring Sibelius’s piano works out of the shadows. “I really believe in this music and I want people to hear it”, he says. After scouring every published note of the composer’s piano music, Andsnes has selected works for this recording that speak to him not just as a pianist but as a musician who for a long time has felt particularly close to Sibelius. Here are piano works in which Sibelius’s orchestral thinking advances the language of the instrument even if it can test the technical orthodoxies of the player. As may be imagined, Andsnes masters them with elegance and ease.
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Classical - Released June 2, 2015 | Naxos

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This is the first in a series from the Naxos label, planned to cover lesser-known orchestral music by Sibelius. From the evidence here, these albums will be a decidedly mixed bag, but potentially interesting. A good deal of the music will fall into a genre that these days is unfairly characterized as too unfamiliar: incidental music for plays. There is no reason it should not be listened to as avidly as its immediate successor, film soundtrack music, especially when there are beautiful little portraits like the "Cranes" movement from the incidental music for the Symbolist play Kuolema (1903). Of course the large-scale evolving architecture that makes Sibelius' symphonies so compelling is not possible in this medium, but many of the short movements, especially in the music for the weightier historical drama King Christian II (1898), seem related to the earlier symphonies. Then there is the first movement of the Kuolema music, here titled "Tempo di valse lente - poco risoluto," which, when reworked by the composer into the Valse triste, became one of his most famous short pieces. There are several songs that make one wonder what Sibelius might have accomplished in the operatic field, and the only real disappointment is the Overture in A minor of 1902, a slapdash work that did not need to come first just because it is an overture. The performances by the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra under Leif Segerstam are enthusiastic and idiomatic. Recommended for Sibelius lovers, with the welcome prospect of more to come. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released January 18, 2019 | Sony Music Labels Inc.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi has recorded a lot of Sibelius: there are at least a couple of complete symphony sets as well as single recordings. In general, he has tended toward the abstract, toward the view that Sibelius, despite his adherence to tonality, was essentially a modern composer with a unique conception of form on both the small and large scales. Consider the finale of the Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82, with its popular half-note theme of open fifths and sixths. It's been thought to evoke anything from Thor's hammer to swans taking flight, but here the epic quality of the motif is toned down, and what emerges instead is the depth to which the fifths and sixths are all over this finale. Järvi's recordings of all three of the final symphonies are masterful, and the one-movement Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105 unfolds with an organic inevitability that's mysterious and miraculous. Perhaps Järvi's approach is a little less desirable in the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39, a genuinely Tchaikovskian work that is a bit drained of sentiment here, or in the Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63, which lacks the requisite gloom in this darkest of all symphonies. But the Second and Third symphonies have sweeping power, and the Orchestre de Paris is precise and sharp throughout. The Eiffel Tower on the cover does not exactly say Sibelius, but Järvi conducted this orchestra for several years, and it responds to his every wish. Your mileage may vary, for these readings are toward one extreme in the interpretation of Sibelius, but many will find the last three symphonies to be capstones of Järvi's Sibelius career -- unless he returns to Sibelius again. © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released August 5, 2016 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Award - Gramophone Editor's Choice
Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has conducted the music of Jean Sibelius throughout his career, and he first recorded the seven symphonies in the mid-1990s with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra on BIS. This 2016 release of the Symphony No. 3 in C major, the Symphony No. 6 in D minor, and the Symphony No. 7 in C major completes Vänskä's second Sibelius cycle, also released on BIS but performed this time by the Minnesota Orchestra. Comparisons between the two cycles are inevitable, and while the interpretations are rather similar in pacing and feeling, and the playing is excellent in both, the particulars are a matter of personal preference. However, there is an important difference in the quality of reproduction. The recordings by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra were issued as CDs and were fine for their time, but the Minnesota Orchestra's recordings benefit tremendously from the advances in audiophile technology, and the multichannel sound of this hybrid SACD is a big plus. Not only is the dynamic range extremely wide, all the details of the performances are absolutely clear, whether at pianissimo or fortissimo levels. The warmth and depth of the audio are extraordinary, and tone colors are varied and distinct, with ideal separation of parts. Sample the low brass in the third movement of the Symphony No. 3 to feel how vibrant they are, or try the marvelous string passage at the opening of the Symphony No. 6 to experience the utterly transparent sound. Highly recommended, along with the two previous volumes, which were released in 2012 and 2013. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released February 7, 2012 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording
Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius once before, with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in the 1990s. This new version of the composer's two most popular and accessible symphonies is part of a second cycle, recorded with the Minnesota Orchestra at its home in downtown Minneapolis, has the acoustic edge over the earlier version. Vänskä's approach, far from Romantic, is to break down the Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, especially, into its smallest constituent parts and then start reassembling. The result is a very attractive congruence between music-making and engineering: listeners will notice details in Sibelius' marvelous orchestration that have been elusive until now, and Vänskä has by now molded the Minnesota Orchestra into an instrument that can respond to his every idea. That's quite an accomplishment; the group is now in the very top tier of U.S. orchestras. For some, the reading may leave the impression that if the British had had to depend on it during World War II, when Sibelius had the function of stirring wartime spirit, they might have gotten a bit depressed. The recording seems to lack oomph, yet stick with Vänskä's plan and it gathers power as it goes along. The bottom line is that this is a fresh and very detailed look at some warhorses of the symphonic repertory. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 6, 2015 | Naxos

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
The beautifully played Sibelius recordings by conductor Leif Segerstam and the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra have often been revelatory, not least in the much-neglected area of the composer's theater music. Segerstam found much of interest in the composer's incidental music, the forerunner of the soundtracks Sibelius might well have written if he had lived in our time. But Scaramouche, Op. 71, composed in 1913, is something else again: it is music for a pantomime, a genre not much in evidence for today (although it certainly has affinities with the music video). The action of the mostly wordless play (there were a few spoken passages, excised in this performance) was continuous, and so, thus, was Sibelius' music. It is thus a genuine piece of dramatic music, of which there is very little in the Sibelius catalog, and for the most part it has more to do with the developmental thinking of the symphonies than it does with the incidental music scores. Consider the clear adumbrations of the Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105, not written until some years later (sample the little "Andantino" theme from Act II, Scene 3, track 13). The music is closely tied to the action of the pantomime, which is summarized in the booklet notes, but it can also stand on its own. Highly recommended to those who have been collecting Segerstam's whole series, for it shows a face of Sibelius that the other entries have not shown. Scaramouche has rarely, if ever, been recorded in its complete form, and it's something of a lost masterwork. © TiVo
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Classical - Released September 4, 2015 | Naxos

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Classical - Released April 14, 2015 | Ondine

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Classical - Released June 3, 2016 | BR-Klassik

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica
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Symphonic Music - Released August 2, 2011 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or de l'année - Diapason d'or / Arte
The BIS label's Sibelius series, presenting the composer's orchestral music under the batons of Osma Vänskä and then Okko Kamu, has been uniformly excellent. Like other releases in the series, this one was recorded at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland, which, though recent, seems as though it was custom designed for his music in the clarity with which it reproduces the variety of textures in the upper registers of the strings. The moderate-sized Lahti Symphony Orchestra is a gem. Is there another city of 100,000 anywhere in the world that has reached this level of accomplishment? Listeners used to mighty English or German readings of Sibelius might find the orchestra a bit quiet, but, especially in a work like Sibelius' incidental music for The Tempest, Op. 109. Vividness of texture is more important than power, and Kamu and the Lahti orchestra provide that in abundance. Sibelius was one of the last major composers to write incidental music for plays, the direct ancestor of modern film music, and The Tempest was written for a 1925 performance of Shakespeare's play in Denmark and then turned into an overture and a pair of contrasting suites by the composer. All three are offered here, and it's hard for anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the play not to think of Shakespeare's words describing storms and enchanted isles on hearing this disc. The more extended structures of Sibelius' last major tone poem, Tapiola, Op. 112, are handled with the same absolute skill here, and in the middle comes a lesser-known tone poem, The Bard, Op. 64, with a big climax that gives the orchestra's brasses a chance for sustained display. This album is, on every front, very hard to beat, for Sibelius lovers and newbies alike. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released February 7, 2020 | Halle Concerts Society

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
Thus Sir Mark Elder finishes his Sibelius collection, just as the very young Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali begins his own with Alpha, already distinguishing himself with the surprising weight and recurring hesitations of his second volume. None of that with Elder, who admittedly suffers from a slightly too uniform sound recording but who stands out with the exactness of his tempos and his refined balances. Sir Mark Elder offers versions that are classic and fluid, with a real organic tension and a sense of lyricism, especially in the medium registers (Symphony N°4, III. Il tempo largo). Sir Mark Elder knows how to harness the energy that is unique to this orchestra with this repertoire, which has become something of a favourite ever since Barbirolli permanently established it in 1940 before recording irrevocable versions for His Master’s Voice between 1966 and 1969, a discography that has never been surpassed. Sir Mark Elder is less interested in the (certainly fascinating) flare-up of Sibelius’ modernity than his predecessor, favouring a calmer internal pulse that often draws comparisons with Bruckner and Wagner for example. He doesn’t however dilute the features that make Sibelius so remarkable, like the ostinato patterns that we have not heard so hauntingly in a long time (in the Symphony N°4 again). As for the Symphony N°6... you can practically hear it smiling. The sound is joyous, even playful (III. Poco vivace), never falling into the cold tones that we hear all too often. A magnificent vision, closing a milestone anthology which Sibelius fanatics should ensure they don’t miss. © Pierre-Yves Lascar/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 24, 2010 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio