Sibelius - Symphonies 3, 6 & 7
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Cat No: BIS2006
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 29th July 2016
WorksSymphony no.3 in C major, op.52
Symphony no.6 in D minor, op.104
Symphony no.7 in C major, op.105
1Symphony no.3 in C Major, Op.52 - I. Allegro moderato
2Symphony no.3 in C Major, Op.52 - II. Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto
3Symphony no.3 in C Major, Op.52 - III. Moderato - Allegro (ma non tanto)
4Symphony no.6 in D Minor, Op.104 - I. Allegro molto moderato
5Symphony no.6 in D Minor, Op.104 - II. Allegretto moderato
6Symphony no.6 in D Minor, Op.104 - III. Poco vivace
7Symphony no.6 in D Minor, Op.104 - IV. Allegro molto
8Symphony no.7 in C Major, Op.105
The first thing that strikes the listener is the sheer quality on offer here: not just of playing or musicianship, but of recording, which combines atmosphere aplenty, a vast dynamic range and a quite staggering level of detail. In the classically proportioned Third Symphony there’s a degree more urgency than before, a superb lightness of touch, but with imposing weight where called for. The intermezzo-like second movement – so difficult to bring off convincingly – has never sounded more natural in poise, while the tricky fugato-style development in the final movement has a rare cogency which adds enormously to the impact of the following build-up and peroration. This is as fine a Third as you’ll hear, full of heart.
The Seventh has a similar, overwhelming impact, with textures gloriously rich yet at all times transparent, and the various tempo changes negotiated with tremendous assurance. The scherzo-like Vivacissimo passage that proceeds the great ‘storm’ passage is remarkably nimble and light, dazzlingly so, yet such virtuosity constantly feels at the service of the unfolding musical argument, never for its own sake. In the closing pages, the intensity of the string playing is incredible, while burnished brass and delicate woodwind shine their light on the scene.
Yet perhaps the greatest achievement of this astonishing disc is in that Cinderella of the cycle, the Sixth Symphony. Enigmatic and elusive, with strong modal hues, it is regarded by many Sibelians as the finest of the seven, and in so many ways it proves the greatest challenge for performers. In music that so doggedly refuses to settle into its groove, it will not do simply to rely on the normal strategies, but Vänskä and his Minnesota players here score their greatest triumph. The care they lavish on the extraordinary, often fragile sonorities is matched at every point by the naturalness with which they allow the music to unfold. As in the Seventh, speeds are broader than in the Lahti cycle, and this is much to the benefit of both works. There is a peaceful inevitability to this Sixth, even to the delightfully sprung rhythms of the Poco vivace third movement, and notwithstanding the bitingly stormy central episode of the finale. In the final bars, there is a hint of spring warmth to the coolness, setting the seal on a truly great traversal of this score, notable above all for its unforced depth.
Vänskä sets new standards with this cycle, and this final disc exceeds expectations, both musically and sonically. A new benchmark for the new millennium, at the same time worthy to stand alongside the very greatest performances of the past. It is a huge achievement, and a stand-out disc by any measure.
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