Author Topic: Sibelius 4: recommendations  (Read 781 times)

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Offline Omicron9

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Sibelius 4: recommendations
« on: August 23, 2017, 09:54:55 AM »
Greetings, Sibelius 4 lovers.

I have the following versions of Sibelius 4:

BSO/Davis
NYP/Bernstein
BPO/Karajan (DG)

I like all three about equally, but for different reasons.  What is your favorite recording (either in my short list or otherwise)?  I'm hoping to find another recording of this incredible piece.

TIA,
-09
« Last Edit: August 27, 2017, 01:36:29 PM by Gurn Blanston »
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2017, 10:02:12 AM »
From among your three above, my favorite is definitely Lenny/NY Phil.

Other favorites of mine are:

Maazel/Pittsburgh
Berglund/Helsinki
Vänskä/Lahti
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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2017, 10:22:22 AM »
From among your three above, my favorite is definitely Lenny/NY Phil.

Other favorites of mine are:

Maazel/Pittsburgh
Berglund/Helsinki
Vänskä/Lahti

I'll second all these (though I don't actually own the Berglund). I recall liking Storgårds/BBC Phil, too. And Lintu/Finnish RSO, there's a DVD/Blu-Ray release of that cycle, but it's not too cheap. Vänskä/Lahti is my favourite.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2017, 12:06:26 AM »
I have the following versions of Sibelius 4:
BSO/Davis
NYP/Bernstein
BPO/Karajan

BPO/Karajan on DG or on EMI/Warner ?
The one now on Warner is the later recording and is probably my favourite Sibelius 4th, but the earlier DG recording is unremarkable by comparison.

Vanska/Lahti/BIS is the slowest of anyone in the crucial 3rd movement, and in late Sibelius slower is usually better IMHO.
Vanska/Minnesota/BIS is slightly more middle-of-the-road, slightly better sound, also recommendable.

Oramo/CBSO/Erato is the BBC's Building A Library top choice - but I can't go along with this at all, it's just lightweight compared with others mentioned here.

Rattle/BPO and Levine/BPO/DG are both too lush and 'beautiful' - not right for this symphony, to my ears - though of those two I do like Levine's hushed and delicate treatment of the 3rd movement.

It's a shame Bernstein didn't get to re-record the 4th with the VPO - that might have been very special.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 12:10:53 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Omicron9

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2017, 05:31:04 AM »
BPO/Karajan on DG or on EMI/Warner ?
The one now on Warner is the later recording and is probably my favourite Sibelius 4th, but the earlier DG recording is unremarkable by comparison.

Vanska/Lahti/BIS is the slowest of anyone in the crucial 3rd movement, and in late Sibelius slower is usually better IMHO.
Vanska/Minnesota/BIS is slightly more middle-of-the-road, slightly better sound, also recommendable.

Oramo/CBSO/Erato is the BBC's Building A Library top choice - but I can't go along with this at all, it's just lightweight compared with others mentioned here.

Rattle/BPO and Levine/BPO/DG are both too lush and 'beautiful' - not right for this symphony, to my ears - though of those two I do like Levine's hushed and delicate treatment of the 3rd movement.

It's a shame Bernstein didn't get to re-record the 4th with the VPO - that might have been very special.

My Karajan is the DG version.  I'll keep an eye out for the EMI version.   Thanks!

I've heard the Vanska on YT and like it.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 05:36:20 AM by Omicron9 »
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Offline amw

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2017, 05:47:08 AM »
Kurt Sanderling w/the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester and Lorin Maazel w/the Vienna Philharmonic were my favourites the last time I listened to the piece. I'm not as into slow Sibelius as aukhawk is though.

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2017, 06:01:57 AM »
I only have Maazel/VPO but that satisfies me. I also prefer Finale to Sibelius, but I have Sibelius 4.
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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2017, 06:18:23 AM »
The first one I got was Ashkenazy/Philharmonia, on the basis of some extraordinarily good reviews in a couple of magazines. It is rather quick in tempo, but very focused and austere-sounding. Most other versions I heard subsequently sounded too slow and plush to me. Not sure how the early digital sound holds up nowadays - I ought to give it a fresh listen.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2017, 09:45:26 AM »
My Karajan is the DG version.  I'll keep an eye out for the EMI version.

This was recorded in 1976.  The DG recording dates from 1965, both were recorded in Berlin.



The Warner-branded equivalent appears to be hard to find as an individual CD (though available as MP3 download) though it is included in some big Warner/Karajan box sets.
The Warner branding brings with it a remastering which is said to be worth while. (I have both but haven't compared them closely, I guess either would do me as my preferred Sibelius 4th.)

Regular readers will know my opinions regarding Sibelius cover art featuring expansive lakes and forests - what a treat therefore  ::) to be able to repeat this truly anodyne offering from EMI/Warner ...



Still, could be worse I suppose ...  :laugh:

« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 09:54:37 AM by aukhawk »

Offline Omicron9

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2017, 11:45:07 AM »
Excellent.  Thank you, aukhawk.  I must check out that version.  4 being my favorite of the Sibelius symphonies; I love the blocks of darkness and the textures.
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Offline aukhawk

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2017, 02:19:06 PM »
I agree the 4th symphony is the very epicentre of all Sibelius' work, and I would go further and say the 3rd movement is the epicentre of that symphony and therefore (for Sibelians) the heart of everything.

Karajan himself cited Sibelius' 4th as one of just three scores that he found most engaging and challenging out of the entire repertoire.
It seems a bit bizarre now when we look mainly to Nordic conductors and orchestras to deliver Sibelius, but Karajan was instrumental at a critical time (after Sibelius' death) in keeping the torch alive, and, as it turns out, he understood the music remarkably well. 
Having said that, you shouldn't ignore Vanska for a more modern and arguably authentic take on this.  Usually available very cheaply in a full set of orchestral music.

On a lighter note, after some dire cover art images upthread, contrast with the most excellect artwork of the original 4th Symphony vinyl release:
« Last Edit: August 24, 2017, 02:29:15 PM by aukhawk »

Offline Omicron9

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2017, 04:57:50 AM »
For further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._4_(Sibelius)

Recently, I read an article (but now I can't locate it) about the reactions to 4 after its premiere.  It was not well-received.  A few people suggested changes to Sibelius.  He flatly refused and said the work was exactly as he intended.  If I can locate this article, I'll add the link.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2017, 05:00:16 AM by Omicron9 »
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Offline Omicron9

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2017, 04:59:20 AM »
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Offline Est.1965

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #13 on: August 25, 2017, 05:34:19 AM »
Kurt Sanderling w/the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester...

Yes, such a great set Sanderling did, his Fourth is pure Sibelius.  No idea why his Berlin SO set is so underappreaciated.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2017, 05:37:10 AM »
Yes, such a great set Sanderling did, his Fourth is pure Sibelius.  No idea why his Berlin SO set is so underappreaciated.

Hmm . . . better check it out . . . .
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Offline DaveF

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2017, 12:15:20 PM »
Found it:

http://www.sibelius.fi/english/musiikki/ork_sinf_04.htm

Fascinating article, thank you.  But (2nd para.) - "mastery of counterpoint"?  Really?  Counterpoint?  Sibelius?  Am I missing something?
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2017, 05:22:01 AM »
Fascinating article, thank you.  But (2nd para.) - "mastery of counterpoint"?  Really?  Counterpoint?  Sibelius?  Am I missing something?

Among other examples we might point to:

A canonical development leads towards C major (canon is contrapuntal in a traditional sense)

Instrumental groups are handled as separate chamber orchestras. (This we might call counterpoint in an extrapolative sense.)

One general thing to keep in mind is, that even through much of the 19th century, a lot of the stable sections of symphonies (i.e., other than the developmental sections in which the musical rhetoric was expected/"allowed" to be less "orderly") hew fairly faithfully to a melody-plus-background-accompaniment model.  With the turn of the century, composers wanted to shake dependence from that "stand and deliver" method, and give more musical content to the "accompaniment."
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2017, 05:50:30 AM »
In my opinion no other version comes close to this in terms of brooding atmosphere.
It is a very historic recording (1937 - but brilliantly transferred) so you probably need a recent one as well.


It's available very cheaply on Amazon.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 05:55:50 AM by vandermolen »
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Offline Mahlerian

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2017, 07:11:12 AM »
Among other examples we might point to:

A canonical development leads towards C major (canon is contrapuntal in a traditional sense)

Instrumental groups are handled as separate chamber orchestras. (This we might call counterpoint in an extrapolative sense.)

One general thing to keep in mind is, that even through much of the 19th century, a lot of the stable sections of symphonies (i.e., other than the developmental sections in which the musical rhetoric was expected/"allowed" to be less "orderly") hew fairly faithfully to a melody-plus-background-accompaniment model.  With the turn of the century, composers wanted to shake dependence from that "stand and deliver" method, and give more musical content to the "accompaniment."

This really started with the Neudeutsch school, though, including Bruckner of whose music Sibelius was quite fond.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Sibelius 4: recomendations
« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2017, 07:17:46 AM »
This really started with the Neudeutsch school, though, including Bruckner of whose music Sibelius was quite fond.

Certainement.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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