Author Topic: The Snowshoed Sibelius  (Read 241558 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2500 on: June 09, 2019, 12:05:34 AM »
I think Sibelius might be a perfect composer.  I can literally listen to anything he composed and enjoy it.  He is one of the very few composers I can listen to every symphony in a single sitting.  But the same can be said about his tone poems or songs.
He is I think the only composer whose music I can listen to regardless of what mood I am in. Something about the power of nature as reflected in his music I think.
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Offline André

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2501 on: June 09, 2019, 05:19:10 AM »


Contrary to the set of 1-4 by Berglund, I think I will want to explore Segertam’s vision of Sibelius again. None of the symphonies was a flop, although he has more to offer in the larger or more complex confections.

 His 4th is very good without offering a specific POV, whether it is in the sound and fury of elemental forces, or the cryptic, Rubik cube nature of its more enigmatic features. Nonetheless, in its brahmsian embrace of the score, Segerstam confidently leads the listener to the end of an event-filled journey.

The 5th is another matter. The Lemminkäinen-like sense of a conquering journey leads to a truly epiphanic performance of the coda in the first movement. A big WOW moment, the likes of which I had remembered Davis/Boston from many years ago, but that seldom fails to materialize in more analytical, fastidiously articulated performances. A sense of all hell breaking loose (Rozhdestvensky) is what I’m looking for. No wonder that when it’s well done, the serene andante that follows sounds and serves more as an interlude than a structural symphonic element. Orchestra and engineering are all that could be asked.

Executive summary of the Segerstam set: superb, top of the line performances of 7 and 5, very interesting and event-filled performances of 4, 1 and 2, rather too objective and non-committal performances of 3 and 6. The fillers are well done, including the rare In Memoriam. Luxurious sound, very resonant and colourful.

Offline aukhawk

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2502 on: June 09, 2019, 06:20:44 AM »
For me the lush Chandos 'style' is a bit of a problem though - in much other music I like it but not here - and I do agree Segerstam is excellent in 5 and 7.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2503 on: June 30, 2019, 11:33:32 AM »
Very well reviewed in the Sunday Times today:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2504 on: August 19, 2019, 01:44:38 AM »

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2505 on: August 19, 2019, 02:10:29 PM »
Berglund/Bournemouth is an absolutely phenomenal Sibelius cycle... I believe it will remain my "reference" set for a long time to come. Of course, I can't say that with any certainty. I'm only just now truly coming around to Sibelius' genius. What a composer...

Is there any love for Vladimir Ashkenazy's Sibelius? I think his 5th symphony and En Saga with the Philharmonia is fantastic. I want to hear more of his cycle.

I just picked up a cheap download for the Vänskä/Lahti cycle, but am not impressed thus far. One day I will give it a fair shot, maybe when my honeymoon with the Berglund set wears off.

Offline Madiel

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2506 on: August 19, 2019, 03:58:19 PM »
Ashkenazy is who I have, and I’m quite happy with it. I seem to remember reviews/general opinion were pretty positive.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2507 on: August 19, 2019, 09:57:07 PM »
Berglund/Bournemouth is an absolutely phenomenal Sibelius cycle... I believe it will remain my "reference" set for a long time to come. Of course, I can't say that with any certainty. I'm only just now truly coming around to Sibelius' genius. What a composer...

Is there any love for Vladimir Ashkenazy's Sibelius? I think his 5th symphony and En Saga with the Philharmonia is fantastic. I want to hear more of his cycle.

I just picked up a cheap download for the Vänskä/Lahti cycle, but am not impressed thus far. One day I will give it a fair shot, maybe when my honeymoon with the Berglund set wears off.

Yes to both Berglund/Bournemouth and Ashkenazy - especially symphonies 4/5 and 'Tapiola'.
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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2508 on: August 19, 2019, 11:45:37 PM »
Berglund/Bournemouth is an absolutely phenomenal Sibelius cycle... I believe it will remain my "reference" set for a long time to come. Of course, I can't say that with any certainty. I'm only just now truly coming around to Sibelius' genius. What a composer...

Is there any love for Vladimir Ashkenazy's Sibelius? I think his 5th symphony and En Saga with the Philharmonia is fantastic. I want to hear more of his cycle.


I'm not AS keen on Berglund/Bournemouth -- in part, perhaps, because I so love the Berglund/COE cycle, which is so distinctive. But I certainly DO like Ashkenazy's Sibelius. I think it might be underrated or at least too easily dismissed by some... but I've always found it very gratifying. 50th percentile, at the very least. (That somehow sounds less appreciative than I want it to...)

A Survey of Sibelius Symphony Cycles


Offline vers la flamme

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2509 on: August 20, 2019, 02:03:01 AM »
I'm not AS keen on Berglund/Bournemouth -- in part, perhaps, because I so love the Berglund/COE cycle, which is so distinctive. But I certainly DO like Ashkenazy's Sibelius. I think it might be underrated or at least too easily dismissed by some... but I've always found it very gratifying. 50th percentile, at the very least. (That somehow sounds less appreciative than I want it to...)

A Survey of Sibelius Symphony Cycles

Thanks for the link, and thanks for the opinions, everyone. Wow, there are so many choices out there. I am also thinking of getting the Berglund/Helsinki. I've heard some say it's even better than the Bournemouth set. But then there's also Barbirolli/Hallé, Karajan/Berlin, Ashkenazy/Philharmonia, Bernstein/NYPO, Segerstam on Ondine, etc... it all sounds great to my ears. As I might have mentioned, I picked up the famous Vänskä/Lahti as a cheap download and so far I am not impressed, but I'll be spending some time with it, eventually.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2510 on: August 20, 2019, 09:23:19 AM »
I'm not AS keen on Berglund/Bournemouth -- in part, perhaps, because I so love the Berglund/COE cycle, which is so distinctive. But I certainly DO like Ashkenazy's Sibelius. I think it might be underrated or at least too easily dismissed by some... but I've always found it very gratifying. 50th percentile, at the very least. (That somehow sounds less appreciative than I want it to...)

A Survey of Sibelius Symphony Cycles

Ah.... the wonder of differing taste!  I would go Berglund/Bournemouth EVERY TIME over Berglund/COE precisely because by this 3rd cycle I think Berglund's over-thought his whole approach to Sibelius.  It IS very distinctive but in a self-conscious, need to be different kind of way.  Ashkenazy is good because its Decca engineering and Philharmonia playing but he is not that distinctive an interpreter.  Others to consider - real left field here is Leaper on Naxos - available very cheaply so worth a punt or Sanderling on Brilliant or Bernstein or Ormandy on Sony (Ormandy never recorded a complete cycle mind....).  I like Gibson as well.  Barbirolli was the 1st set I ever owned and I loved it but the playing of the Halle at that time could be very fallible.  Oramo on Erato is good and whisper who dares I enjoy Rattle in Birmingham too.

As you say.... so much choice!!

Offline Jo498

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2511 on: August 20, 2019, 12:02:46 PM »
Not sure if this has been linked here. A fanfare review by Richard Kaplan that was available at some other sites as well:

http://www.classicalmusicguide.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=27007#p269024
Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2512 on: August 20, 2019, 01:57:53 PM »
This turned up recently. I obtained it for about £5.00 and it looks completely new. An  amazing bargain. I especially want to hear 'Kullervo' after recommendations here. It also features the Four Legends for Orchestra:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2513 on: August 21, 2019, 12:19:45 AM »
Ah.... the wonder of differing taste!  I would go Berglund/Bournemouth EVERY TIME over Berglund/COE precisely because by this 3rd cycle I think Berglund's over-thought his whole approach to Sibelius.  It IS very distinctive but in a self-conscious, need to be different kind of way.  Ashkenazy is good because its Decca engineering and Philharmonia playing but he is not that distinctive an interpreter.  Others to consider - real left field here is Leaper on Naxos - available very cheaply so worth a punt or Sanderling on Brilliant or Bernstein or Ormandy on Sony (Ormandy never recorded a complete cycle mind....).  I like Gibson as well.  Barbirolli was the 1st set I ever owned and I loved it but the playing of the Halle at that time could be very fallible.  Oramo on Erato is good and whisper who dares I enjoy Rattle in Birmingham too.

As you say.... so much choice!!

Leaper is good, indeed. As is Inkinen on Naxos - another leaner version... for anyone who wants to move into the other direction after having been smothered in quasi-Straussian thickness by Davis I/Boston. :-) (For my sumptuous Sibelius, I prefer Segerstam II/Helsinki.) I can see the Berglund III criticism... but I perceive it minus any "self-consciousness". Just the wisdom of age having boiled matters down to the essence. I might agree it is not the perfect Sibelius cycle -- but it is a perfect complement to any good collection. And yes, there is some good Sibelius in that first Rattle cycle. But it's not advisable to mention that in polite society.   ;D

Offline aukhawk

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2514 on: August 21, 2019, 12:41:24 AM »
Beat me to it.  I came here to make some very similar points, re Inkinen, Segerstam, Belglund/CEO, and yes Rattle too ...
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 12:43:12 AM by aukhawk »

Offline aukhawk

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2515 on: August 21, 2019, 01:09:34 AM »
Thanks for the link, and thanks for the opinions, everyone. Wow, there are so many choices out there. I am also thinking of getting the Berglund/Helsinki. I've heard some say it's even better than the Bournemouth set. But then there's also Barbirolli/Hallé, Karajan/Berlin, Ashkenazy/Philharmonia, Bernstein/NYPO, Segerstam on Ondine, etc... it all sounds great to my ears. As I might have mentioned, I picked up the famous Vänskä/Lahti as a cheap download and so far I am not impressed, but I'll be spending some time with it, eventually.

If you like Berglund/Bournemouth (and are less impressed by Vanska/Lahti) then you might enjoy Segerstam/Danish RSO on Chandos (OOP I think but look out for second-hand discs) which is out there on the 'slow readings and opulent sound' end of the spectrum.  [edit - see post #2501  upthread for the set.]



Similarly or even more so Bernstein/VPO (1,2,5,7 only, on DG).

For a good contrast - the sparser approach - I agree with Inkinen, and Berglund/COE, or indeed Vanska/Lahti.

I don't really do cycles - I prefer to cherry-pick, both the music I choose to listen to and the individual recordings for each work.  The main advantage as I see it of a cycle is that many do package the music very cheaply - and this is exactly where Vanska/Lahti fits in.  He wouldn't be my first choice in most of the music (though as it happens he is my 1st choice, by a whisker from Karajan, in No.4).  But several other inexpensive Sibelius cycles are available, in addition to those already mentioned there is Davis/LSO Live which is one of the more recent sets, I'm not keen personally but it does get very good reviews and did well in a blind comparison here a couple of years ago.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 01:24:11 AM by aukhawk »

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2516 on: August 21, 2019, 01:41:16 AM »
^Thanks for the recommendations. Segerstam is one I've been curious about. Do you know if this is the same cycle you mention?



The original Chandos set is going for about $80 and this is much cheaper, I'm thinking it's a licensed reissue.

Bernstein is one I still need to check out. He is famous as a Sibelius interpreter, and I'm a fan of his, but I've heard none of his Sibelius.

I'll give Vänskä a fair shot eventually, I'm sure. I've been traversing the Berglund set in order for maybe the 4th time since I got it a few months ago, and I'm almost done. When I finish I may do the same with the Vänskä. When you say sparseness, I think that comes across in the music as weakness, on my end. Some of those rich textures that are one of the reasons I love Sibelius are just not there. This may be due to a lacking string section, as I've heard some accuse these performances of. I think it's also mastered much more quietly than the Berglund - not that that is a defect in itself. I've heard a few of Vänskä's later recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, which are so sleek and streamlined as to sound almost mechanical, like a Swedish luxury car. I'll persist with him, though, as I feel like there is indeed something there that I just don't get yet.

Offline Biffo

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2517 on: August 21, 2019, 01:55:35 AM »
^Thanks for the recommendations. Segerstam is one I've been curious about. Do you know if this is the same cycle you mention?



The original Chandos set is going for about $80 and this is much cheaper, I'm thinking it's a licensed reissue.

Bernstein is one I still need to check out. He is famous as a Sibelius interpreter, and I'm a fan of his, but I've heard none of his Sibelius.

I'll give Vänskä a fair shot eventually, I'm sure. I've been traversing the Berglund set in order for maybe the 4th time since I got it a few months ago, and I'm almost done. When I finish I may do the same with the Vänskä. When you say sparseness, I think that comes across in the music as weakness, on my end. Some of those rich textures that are one of the reasons I love Sibelius are just not there. This may be due to a lacking string section, as I've heard some accuse these performances of. I think it's also mastered much more quietly than the Berglund - not that that is a defect in itself. I've heard a few of Vänskä's later recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, which are so sleek and streamlined as to sound almost mechanical, like a Swedish luxury car. I'll persist with him, though, as I feel like there is indeed something there that I just don't get yet.

I was going to suggest you try Bernstein's complete cycle on Sony, it is a fine set and was remastered in 2015. Unfortunately, it suddenly seems to have become very expensive, certainly on Amazon UK. If you can find it at a reasonable price it is well worth having.

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2518 on: August 21, 2019, 01:58:00 AM »
^Thanks for the recommendations. Segerstam is one I've been curious about. Do you know if this is the same cycle you mention?



The original Chandos set is going for about $80 and this is much cheaper, I'm thinking it's a licensed reissue.

Bernstein is one I still need to check out. He is famous as a Sibelius interpreter, and I'm a fan of his, but I've heard none of his Sibelius.

I'll give Vänskä a fair shot eventually, I'm sure. I've been traversing the Berglund set in order for maybe the 4th time since I got it a few months ago, and I'm almost done. When I finish I may do the same with the Vänskä. When you say sparseness, I think that comes across in the music as weakness, on my end. Some of those rich textures that are one of the reasons I love Sibelius are just not there. This may be due to a lacking string section, as I've heard some accuse these performances of. I think it's also mastered much more quietly than the Berglund - not that that is a defect in itself. I've heard a few of Vänskä's later recordings with the Minnesota Orchestra, which are so sleek and streamlined as to sound almost mechanical, like a Swedish luxury car. I'll persist with him, though, as I feel like there is indeed something there that I just don't get yet.

That is Segerstam I (DNSO/Chandos), which has been with Brilliant on and off (when it isn't Sanderling that they feature as their cycle; they're easy to confuse. Sanderling is v. fine, btw!)
It should all be explained in the Sibelius Symphony Cycle Survey

(EDIT: Oh, so, YES, that's the one, if you were responding to aukhawk's mention of the Chandos cycle.)

I wonder when I've last properly listened to it. Must have been a while (or sloppy). I think I'll put it on now, myself. But in any case, no, it is the Ondine cycle that I love and adore and which is, beyond my personal taste, widely well regarded. The Chandos cycle was never that well-reviewed and for all my listening (which took place after some of these opinions were already formed, admittedly) it never left a lasting impression.

Bernstein is, well... quite good in his Sony cycle. Certainly his Fourth is one of my favorites [Wagner-without-words-weird] and his Fifth is also very highly regarded; an early classic in the US. Unfortunately, for all my wanting to love the ueber-sumptuousness of the Vienna remakes on DG, they are (the First symphony apart) strange disasters.

Offline Madiel

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Re: The Snowshoed Sibelius
« Reply #2519 on: August 21, 2019, 02:15:46 AM »
Not sure if this has been linked here. A fanfare review by Richard Kaplan that was available at some other sites as well:

http://www.classicalmusicguide.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=27007#p269024

I know I've seen that before, because obviously I enjoy reading the whole "oh hey, Ashkenazy is consistently good and I'm surprised because I didn't pick him as the ultimate in any one work" bit towards the end.

I do cycles. Because in most cases I want one solid recording. There's quite enough music in the world to get through without spending all my time picking over a tonne of recordings of the same music.

Also... Sibelius symphonies are really done a bit much. Don't get me wrong, I think they're some of the finest symphonies ever, by anyone, but the problem is the lack of proportion with the rest of this output.  Too many recording projects completely ignore everything else that Sibelius wrote. He's not the only composer for whom this is an issue, but it does seem to be a particularly acute case of symphony-focus given the range of other works he wrote (even if you just stick with orchestra).
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