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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: aukhawk on March 06, 2017, 01:09:36 AM

Title: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 06, 2017, 01:09:36 AM
Another week, another mini-blind comparison.
Here are 10 samples from recordings of Sibelius' 7th symphony, in C.

The samples are about 5:15 long on average, and start around 6-7 minutes in to the symphony.  Although the symphony is cast in a single movement about 22-23 minutes long, what we have here is essentially the 'scherzo' section. (A few recordings do in fact have a track-break at the point where this music starts.) 
So about an hour in total, or if you like, just pick 1-5 or 6-10, and report on those.  Or dip in halfway through, to just audition the big climax which is the main focus of this comparison.

These live links will be removed after 2 weeks.
[links removed]

Almost immediately after the music starts, we have a trademark Sibelian gear-shift, the first of several in this extract.  I think these should be sort-of imperceptible, like a chauffeur moving through the gears so smoothly you don't spill the champagne.
This is followed by a strangely stifled half-climax for the brass, then a long (by Sibelius' standards) woodwind-led section which sounds to me like birdsong calling back and forth across a broad valley.  About 3 minutes in, a huge swirling climax starts to take shape, this time driven by the lower strings and punctuated by tympani, this music is all about low-end grunt.  It's one of my favourite passages in all of orchestral music. 

(http://www.aukadia.net/pix/sibelius.jpg)
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: mc ukrneal on March 06, 2017, 10:01:21 AM
A symphony I own one version of, but am not sure I have ever listened to it. A composer I find hard to get terribly excited about. Together, not one I have so much knowledge of. Which means, of course, that I will jump at the opportunity!

Time to read up a little before I listen. When will you close this one?
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 07, 2017, 01:53:55 AM
amw's "1 week" format was successful, I thought.  I'm not sure that's practical here given the volume of material, but I'll aim for 2 weeks with an absolute deadline of 'before Easter'.  The live links will in any case be removed in 2 weeks, though they may still be available on application to me via PM.

It was painful reducing the field to 10, and many really worthwhile recordings both old and new have been crowded out, unfortunately.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Mahlerian on March 07, 2017, 12:03:25 PM
1. String section feels smallish.  Good control of rhythmic flow, though a bit sluggish overall.
2. From the beginning I like the sound of this one better.  The individual events feel more meaningful, and there's more momentum.
3. A bit more muted than either of the previous.  The rhythmic jerk about 1/3 of the way through feels forced.  Not especially exciting.
4. The individual strands of the music feel alive here.  The fast section is very fast, but it doesn't feel willful.  Engaging all the way through the climax.
5. Strings sound soupy.  Change in tempo feels very forced.  Climax plays out pretty well though.
6. Not too assertive, but nicely lilting in the scherzando portions.
7. I like the balance achieved here.  Still, lacking in that last measure of force.
8. Winds stand out a little more here, which makes the sonority strongly Sibelian.  Transitions handled excellently, but climax is perhaps a bit muted.
9. A bit recessed in sound.  Middling interpretation.
10. Harsher and more impetuous at first, then a hesitant scherzando which is effective all the same. I like the individual elements in this one, but the connections between them could be stronger.

Ranking: 4, 8, 2, 10, 6, 7, 1, 9, 5, 3
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: mc ukrneal on March 07, 2017, 07:32:16 PM
I had some time. Comments:
1. Ok. A bit Ravelian in the beginning.  Lacks intensity.
2. Very well played. One can really fell the long line here. Build up and release are extremely well done. Bravo.
3. Not bad.  A bit fuller than #1. Lows are quite full. Runs seem more unsure at first. Build up isn't really allowed to bloom at the top - not like #2. And then release lacks as well.
4. A hair faster to start. Beginning of buildup starts a bit too early/full and thus it doesn't have quite the effectiveness at the top and with the subsequent release (which isn't as good as #2 in any case).
5.  This one has a nice start, but then perhaps slows too much. Does get a bit Ravelian like #1. Middle loses steam a bit. Climax is ok, but doesn't have the same effect as the best.
6. A bigger start here. Runs are nice, but episodic. Blander in balance. Buildup is nicely done. Climax not quite as good, but then release is still there.
7. Lighter, leaner feel. I like this. It creates more wavelike changes in the early going. Early middle perhaps loses momentum, but this is regained in spades, especially when it feels like there is wind blowing - loved this section. Loved the runs too. Climax is well done, though not quite the high of #2 (or even #9), but it breathes. Really enjoyed.   
8. Starts bigger. Creates a nice early climax, but would have been better with more contrast from the start. Never seems to get quiet enough. Generally good though a bit exhausting on the ears, even after just 5 minutes.
9. Didn't really like certain details, but it creates an effective view. It also feels like it is always moving from something and to something. Interesting effect. Very good at creating tension. Creates an effective vision.
10. Nice start. Middle seems too deliberate. A bit static in the middle. Climax too loud throughout, but a different impact than any other with the phrasing.

None of them was truly 'bad' as each one had something (if not several somethings) to add to the conversation. I really enjoyed #7 and #2. They are quite different.

Ordering: 2,7,9,10,8,6,4,5,3,1
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 08, 2017, 02:31:07 AM
Thanks both, for those interesting responses.
ukrneal, your top choices show impeccable Sibelian taste - that is to say, one of them is a favourite of mine too  ;) and the other was first choice in Building a Library.
Mahlerian, your top choice is a conductor who gets plenty of mentions in GMG Sibelius threads, but when I was agonising over who to include and who to leave out, this one rightly or wrongly was my borderline in/out candidate.   :-[

All the 'must hear' conductors most closely associated with Sibelius are included here - all the modern ones that is, along with a couple of my personal favourites and one or two included mainly to provide contrast.  Not included are more historical figures such as Koussevitsky, Beecham, Gibson, though Beecham/RPO particularly is well worth hearing I think.  One version I very much wanted to include was outside my budget (!)   All bar two of these conductors have recorded this music more than once, but each is only represented once here, I've generally but not always chosen the newest version.  My choice of which recording to include may have done No.1 in particular, a disservice.

ukrneal I too went looking for some reading material - but got a bit more than I had bargained for, a lengthy dissertation on 'biosemiotics in music'.   ???  ???
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Mahlerian on March 08, 2017, 11:07:02 AM
My choice of which recording to include may have done No.1 in particular, a disservice.

I think I can guess who that recording is.  If I'm right, I definitely would have ranked his other versions higher.

I'm wondering which one is Karajan, because I seem to have a love/hate relationship with his interpretations in general.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 09, 2017, 01:57:53 AM
One question might be whether the Berlin PO is really a good fit for this music, and Karajan certainly produces a warm glow which doesn't sit well with the average Sibelius cover art of forests, mists and lakes.  ukrneal commented on a 'lighter leaner feel' and that one was a Finnish orchestra.  A recent version that got crowded out that I was really sorry not to include is by Paul Magi conducting the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra - like sample 4 it's on the fast side overall and certainly has that lean texture - a recommended listen.

Karajan/BPO have done some very good Sibelius though - his earlier stereo recording of the 4th Symphony (was on EMI, now available on Warner) startled the critics in its day, starting so slowly as to almost deconstruct the music, to spellbinding effect - a pace which has has since become the new normal for this music.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 14, 2017, 01:55:32 AM
Any more takers - I shall close this next Monday, March 20th.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Senta on March 14, 2017, 08:27:50 PM
Ah, the good old blind comparison days! Glad to see this is still going on to some extent.

The fact that it's Sibelius 7 made me bite. I have several recordings but it's been a while since I did any focused listening to this so at the moment it's more of a clean slate.

I'm probably going to mention some conductor/orchestra combinations below that don't even exist for this work, oh well just stabs in the dark!  :P

Here are comments on each, I did end up listening to them in numbered order for convenience-sake, of course order always influences perspective I feel..

Top favs are 10, 4, 5..and 2 for variation.

1
Sluggish, then weirdly rushed in the middle, playing is not always totally together, textures are a bit muddy. Perhaps an older recording? Really no idea about the orchestra or conductor…this one doesn’t do it for me.


Innnnnnteresting….VERY deliberate but with a purpose. I think this is a European orchestra, maybe Vienna or Berlin? Everything makes a lot more sense in this recording than #1. LOVE the tempo contrasts, the drama in the sustained brass section, blazing, almost overbearing! Really wondering if this is a Bernstein recording.

3
Restrained…very light balletic touch, tempo a little ploddy perhaps. This one is just missing immediacy and drama though to me, it’s very safe. No idea about the provenance (but feel like this might be an American orchestra)

4
This certainly has more to say about the music …love the characterful winds! Elegant, and phrasing/accents just all make sense. Love the quick scherzo tempi. Great balance when the brass come in. Pretty sure this is a northern European (or Finnish) orchestra, might have an idea which recording this is.

5
Beautiful, extremely musical playing! Very sweet and flirtatious, round fruity winds, this makes a lot of very specific musical statements that are quite interesting. For some reason I feel this might be the Berlin Philharmonic..no idea about conductor.

6
This one glosses over a bit too much for me, not enough to say. It is light to the extreme, not weighty enough somehow, feels rushed. Gets a little better when the brass enters. Nicely played, but not a favorite. Feel like this might be a British orchestra.

7
Well, this is quite drawn out.. Very musical, extremely restrained and sooo tightly controlled. Almost sounds chamber orchestra-like. Interesting how darkly colored the brass sound. Awesome playing though as a whole it doesn’t speak to me as much as some others. Wondering if this might be Vienna though.

8
Okay, so this is an extreme, like each phrase has been taken out and spit polished and put back on display with a spotlight over it. It’s too much really for me, almost over dramatic. Spells out too much, I want longer thoughts. I’m wondering if this is possibly a Finnish orchestra, possibly with Segerstam? Probably so wrong about that though..

9
A slow beginning…again very classical light delicate playing. Something about this one reminds me of #7 for some reason. Feels a bit rushed in the middle.  So this still has that same quality as the brass in #7 too, kind of a dark covered element in the sound. This one had a lot more to say (in a doom sort of way) when the brass came in. Interesting, for sure, though not sure if a fav.      

10
Love the sweep of the beginning right off, this one is also making more extreme and specific statements. Maybe a Finnish/northern European orchestra. Great contrasts in tempi! I actually hear the sentences in this one, and they are quite varied. Excellent phrasing! Love the brass tone…it’s like darkly blazing….how about the horn, very interesting interpretation! Man, really not sure about the provenance now. But absolutely a fav.

Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 15, 2017, 08:52:40 AM
Thanks - really useful to have that new set of rankings - I just love the stabs in the dark, don't miss out of the reveal early nect week  ;D

Quote
Here are comments on each, I did end up listening to them in numbered order for convenience-sake, of course order always influences perspective I feel..

Indeed, of course the order of presentation was far from random.  To eliminate all bias perhaps every listening session should start with a roll of the dice.

So far we have 3 clear leaders - which happen to be the 3 recordings that have individually been picked in 1st place, that is versions 2, 10 and 4 - plus 2 honorable also-rans, versions 8 and 7, with the rest relatively unloved.  Of these 5 conductors, 2 are Finnish.  Of these 5 orchestras, 2 are English.  Of these 5 record labels, 2 are German.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: TheGSMoeller on March 15, 2017, 09:20:55 AM
Any more takers - I shall close this next Monday, March 20th.

I'll definitely participate. Hopefully by this Friday/Saturday I'll be able to post my thoughts and scores.
 
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 15, 2017, 10:14:32 AM
I'll definitely participate. Hopefully by this Friday/Saturday I'll be able to post my thoughts and scores.

Amen!  I need to use the headphones for a final decision!  0:)
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 16, 2017, 04:05:09 AM
Good-oh.  I look forward to it!
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 16, 2017, 05:55:37 AM
Okay, all together now, with the headphones!

Version I:  Not bad, but clarity is lacking at various points.  A concert recording, since I heard some audience noise, or else someone in the orchestra coughed.  The microphones seem to be very close to the orchestra.

Version II: The crescendos are CRESCENDOS!!!  I had to turn the volume down to avoid permanent hearing loss!  0:)  Powerful interpretation as a result!

Version III: Some hissing noise when the woodwinds are exposed, which might simply be the online interference.  The antiphonal parts were nicely done, a little Celibidache toward the end, but there is a case to be made for it.

Version IV: Nicely done throughout: perhaps more subtle than II, but its crescendos are almost as powerful.  Again, the antiphony among the woodwinds is handled well.

Version V: The opening is not bad, but in general not as exciting or interesting as some of the others: a little too delicate at times.  Again, some hissing in the recording may be from the online process.  I listened to it twice to verify my impression.

Version VI: Strong opening, although not as powerful as II.  And again one hears excellent playing in the antiphonal section.  The following section delivers drama and mystery.

Version VII: The opening is rather subdued in comparison to most of the others.  Nice playing, the drama at the end, again, is more subdued than in other versions.

Version VIII: An ominous aspect in the music comes through quite clearly at the beginning.  Some very close miking picks up a few clicks and squeaks here and there.  However, things are very clear as a result.  The third section is slowed down and the ominous aspect is made very apparent!  Right at the height of the climax, however, either someone monkeys with the equalizer and causes a jarring effect by suddenly bringing out the trumpets and woodwinds, or they were told to play quadruple fortissimo, thereby spoiling the section.  Too bad, as I was thinking this might be near the top.

Version IX: The opening is very good, as is the middle part, and the dramatic build-up in the next part rivals that of II!  Excellent overall!

Version X: Another slam-dunk opening, rivaling II, VIII, and IX.  Again, hissing in the recording now and then, but the playing in the antiphonal section contains more drama and intensity than other versions: this is no tippy-toe ballet music.  The dramatic climax is just that!

VERY difficult to choose a top version!

10

9

2

6

3

8

7

4

1

5


Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 16, 2017, 09:45:49 AM
Thanks, Cato.  Incidentally the 'hissy' No.3 is (I think) the most recently-recorded of all these versioins - so something a bit odd there.

VERY difficult to choose a top version!

Indeed - very difficult to select just 10 versions out of the 30 :o I now have (I did acquire 5 new-to-me recordings in the process of preparing this comparison, 2 of which are included in this 10).  I'll be mentioning some of the other notable recordings during the reveal next week.
There is a 20% variation in overall timings and in Sibelius as in most music I personally lean towards the slower tempi - although scoring-wise this is little more than a chamber symphony which suggests that a lighter touch is also entirely workable.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 16, 2017, 10:40:34 AM
Thanks, Cato.  Incidentally the 'hissy' No.3 is (I think) the most recently-recorded of all these versioins - so something a bit odd there.

Senta mentioned that Recording #7 was "chamber orchestra-like" and McUkrneal mentioned its "lighter" and "leaner feel," which are interesting comments, because I know that Sibelius had noticed Schoenberg by the early 1900's, especially the  Opus 9 Kammersinfonie.  Given the single-movement nature of the Seventh, its "compression," its assorted uses of peripeteia  ??? so to speak, I have always wondered if the work was not somehow (unconsciously?) influenced by Schoenberg's Opus 9.

Regardless, certainly there is a case to be made for a "chamber orchestra" quality in the score, as seen in Recording #7.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 16, 2017, 11:00:44 AM
Another week, another mini-blind comparison.
Here are 10 samples from recordings of Sibelius' 7th symphony, in C.

The samples are about 5:15 long on average, and start around 6-7 minutes in to the symphony.  Although the symphony is cast in a single movement about 22-23 minutes long, what we have here is essentially the 'scherzo' section. (A few recordings do in fact have a track-break at the point where this music starts.) 
So about an hour in total, or if you like, just pick 1-5 or 6-10, and report on those.  Or dip in halfway through, to just audition the big climax which is the main focus of this comparison.

These live links will be removed after 2 weeks.
1.              File 1 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/7khj1dsf336z3tm/file01.mp3)
2.              File 2 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/em6x4j9mcc8zl6d/file02.mp3)
3.              File 3 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/chov7fpgc86b4k2/file03.mp3)
4.              File 4 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/6d3dgujb4g7nz7f/file04.mp3)
5.              File 5 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/2xivwcffjkn8ua3/file05.mp3)
6.              File 6 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/l7ne3gaaqr0aa0u/file06.mp3)
7.              File 7 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/avlca6mmf32ajf9/file07.mp3)
8.              File 8 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/yg5ixfeymz8i38x/file08.mp3)
9.              File 9 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/zfn9454zy461ikb/file09.mp3)
10              File10 (http://www.mediafire.com/file/ohvz2p98ybbn3g1/file10.mp3)

Almost immediately after the music starts, we have a trademark Sibelian gear-shift, the first of several in this extract.  I think these should be sort-of imperceptible, like a chauffeur moving through the gears so smoothly you don't spill the champagne.
This is followed by a strangely stifled half-climax for the brass, then a long (by Sibelius' standards) woodwind-led section which sounds to me like birdsong calling back and forth across a broad valley.  About 3 minutes in, a huge swirling climax starts to take shape, this time driven by the lower strings and punctuated by tympani, this music is all about low-end grunt.  It's one of my favourite passages in all of orchestral music. 

(http://www.aukadia.net/pix/sibelius.jpg)


If Saturday is not too late, I can play.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 16, 2017, 04:00:44 PM
Please do!   (https://yacf.co.uk/forum/Smileys/classic/thumbsup.gif)
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 20, 2017, 01:31:01 AM
Last day - I'll do the reveal tomorrow (Tuesday).
At the moment things are nicely split between - two clear leaders, three who are decidedly unloved, and the rest quite clearly grouped together in between.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: TheGSMoeller on March 20, 2017, 04:54:41 AM
Last day - I'll do the reveal tomorrow (Tuesday).
At the moment things are nicely split between - two clear leaders, three who are decidedly unloved, and the rest quite clearly grouped together in between.

I apologize I wasn't able to complete it in time.  :-[
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 20, 2017, 05:01:19 AM
I apologize I wasn't able to complete it in time.  :-[

Erm, ditto.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 21, 2017, 09:21:05 AM
Shame - but never mind, there will always be another mini-blind ...  ;)

The Results (part 1 of 3)
I've taken down the links but anyone wanting to refer back will find them still in Karl's quoted reply #17 upthread - they'll stay until I get round to actually deleting the files in a few days' time

I'll be mentioning overall timings throughout this reveal.  An 'average' timing for this symphony appears to be about 22 minutes or a few seconds over.  Over 23 minutes is unusual and so is under 21 minutes, but there are two of each represented in these ten recordings.  Although there is some scope for internal variations of course, broadly speaking the pacing of the samples does reflect the overall timings. So ...

Unloved are 1 3 and 5, that is, Paavo Berglund, Okko Kamu and Neeme Jarvi.  Two Finns and an Estonian neighbour.

Paavo Berglund/LPO Live (2003) 22:41
"Lacks intenstity."
"playing is not always totally together, textures are a bit muddy."
Berglund recorded the entire cycle four times (at least) at intervals of approximately a decade.  All are currently easily obtainable: 
Bournemouth SO (1973) (EMI/Warner) 21:47
Helsinki PO (1984) (EMI) 21:19  So an all-Finnish combination.  Perhaps I should have used this version - but it looks rather quick.
CO Europe (1995) (Finlandia) 21:57
LPO Live (2003) 22:41 So the version used here is the most recent and also by some margin his slowest.

Sibelius is sometimes categorised as a nationalist composer, or at least nationalist elements are found in his music, which is why I'm pointing up the Finnish or at least Scandinavian connections where they occur.  You would expect an all-Finnish combination of conductor and orchestra to do well.  Such as ...
Okko Kamu/Lahti SO/BIS (2013) 22:38
"A bit more muted than either of the previous."
"Build up isn't really allowed to bloom at the top - not like #2. And then release lacks as well."
This is I think the most recently-recorded version here.  The modern BIS recording has great transparency and even in the busiest passages every detail can be picked out.  Kamu's Sibelian pedigree is good, as a much younger man he recorded Symphony 2 with the Berlin PO on the DG label. The pacing here is right in the zone and I'm rather surprised this recording didn't do better.  Like all the recordings except nos.2 and 8 this one is part of a complete symphony cycle.

Neeme Jarvi/Gothenburg SO/BIS.  (1985) 20:43
"Strings sound soupy."
BUT
"this makes a lot of very specific musical statements that are quite interesting."
An Estonion conducting a Swedish orchestra - so not Finnish, technically not Scandinavian, technically not Baltic - ah, Nordic, that's the word I'm looking for, it's a Nordic combination.  What could possibly go wrong?  But the string sound on this older BIS recording is decidedly odd - mastered for vinyl maybe?  Jarvi is also one of the quickest in this comparison, but it kinda works, for me.

Next up, the group of five also-rans.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Mahlerian on March 21, 2017, 12:09:22 PM
Paavo Berglund/LPO Live (2003) 22:41
"Lacks intenstity."
"playing is not always totally together, textures are a bit muddy."
Berglund recorded the entire cycle four times (at least) at intervals of approximately a decade.  All are currently easily obtainable: 
Bournemouth SO (1973) (EMI/Warner) 21:47
Helsinki PO (1984) (EMI) 21:19  So an all-Finnish combination.  Perhaps I should have used this version - but it looks rather quick.
CO Europe (1995) (Finlandia) 21:57
LPO Live (2003) 22:41 So the version used here is the most recent and also by some margin his slowest.

Knew it.  I really like his first recording, so it's a shame he had to be represented by that one.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 21, 2017, 12:19:59 PM
Sorry about that.  If I had picked a different version to represent Berglund, it would have been the interesting Chamber Orchestra of Europe one.  :-\

This next group returned sort-of average scores, they are, in rising order:
Ashkenazy/Stockholm SO/Exton, Vanska/Lahti SO/BIS, Bernstein/Vienna PO/DG, Segerstam/Danish RSO/Chandos,
and heading this group, Oramo/CBSO/Erato.
Three more Finns, an American and a Russian.

Sample No.6 Ashkenazy/Stockholm SO/Exton (2007) 20:32
"It is light to the extreme, not weighty enough somehow, feels rushed."
"again one hears excellent playing in the antiphonal section."
Ashkenazy is the fastest of the ten. His older recording with the Philharmonia is almost 2 minutes longer and, in hindsight, probably preferable.

No.7 Vanska/Lahti SO/BIS (1997) 22:42
"the drama at the end, again, is more subdued than in other versions."
"Lighter, leaner feel. I like this."
This recording - another all-Finnish combination - is the BBC Building A Library top choice for this symphony, and is loved by reviewers in general.  And is ukrneal's 2nd choice.  :)  I find it middle-of-the-road in all things which is perhaps the whole point in this so-called 'organic' music.  This entire Vanska symphony cycle plus other orchestral works well recorded on BIS is usually available at a super-bargain price.  If you want to acquire some Sibelius this cycle has to be a top recommendation.  Vanska has subsequently re-recorded the symphonies, with the Minnesota Orchestra, again on BIS.  WHY??  ???

No.8 Bernstein/Vienna PO/DG (1990) 24:47
"this is an extreme, like each phrase has been taken out and spit polished and put back on display with a spotlight over it."
"Generally good though a bit exhausting on the ears, even after just 5 minutes."
Bernstein conducts the slowest version of the 7th in my collection of about 30 recordings.  This recording, made shortly before the conductor's death, runs to an almost painful 24:47.  I generally like slow, and I do like this one - and it's Mahlerian's 2nd choice - although the recording is unfortunately not DG's finest.  It's usually available in a set of 1st, 2nd, 5th and 7th symphonies, an unfinished cycle.  The broody moody 4th symphony - the dark heart of Sibelius - would have been a wonderful thing, had Bernstein been spared a little longer.  He did of course record a complete cycle with the NYPO about 25 years earlier, still available and remastered.

No.9 Segerstam/Danish RSO/Chandos (1995?)  22:08
"Didn't really like certain details, but it creates an effective view."
"The opening is very good, as is the middle part, and the dramatic build-up in the next part rivals that of II!  Excellent overall!"
Segerstam with a Danish orchestra qualifies as a Scandinavian combination.  And, actually, the highest-ranked such in this comparison. Something about the '90s Chandos sound suggests 'expansive' but actually his timing is exactly on point (and exactly the same timing as the eventual group winner).  Like Kamu, I'm surprised this didn't do better, and it was Cato's 2nd choice.  Segerstam has also recordecd the 7th with the Helsinki SO on Ondine so that version may be preferred although it is about a minute faster.  Incidentally Segerstam is the Building A Library 1st choice in Tapiola - which is sometimes billed as "Sibelius' 8th" (though personally I find it a rather uninteresting piece of music).


No.4 Oramo/CBSO/Erato (2003) 21:12
"love the characterful winds! Elegant, and phrasing/accents just all make sense. Love the quick scherzo tempi. Great balance when the brass come in."
"The individual strands of the music feel alive here."
Oramo was Mahlerian's 1st choice and Senta's 2nd choice, and does sit a bit ahead of the other four here.  A Finnish conductor, and the Birmingham orchestra has good credentials having previously recorded a successful Sibelius cycle under Simon Rattle.  This recording dates from 2003 (like Berglund/LPO).  Oramo is on the quick side which may have led me to dismiss this recording too easliy - note to self, LISTEN AGAIN.  :-\  Oramo too has Building A Library palmares - he is the top choice for the 4th Symphony.  (Really?   ??? )

Rattle/CBSO was sadly squeezed out of this comparison, and his new BPO 7th - which has been reviewed as the best in that cycle - is out of my price range!  >:(
Other notable recordings that were regrettably squeezed out include:
Paul Magi/Uppsala CO  Mravinsky/Leningrad PO  Beecham/RPO  Maazel/VPO  Sakari/Iceland SO  Sanderling/Berlin SO  Tintner/SO Nova Scotia  De Priest/Oregon SO

Magi is one I discovered only while preparing this comparison, and although he is very quick (20:50) I really like this recording and would set it up alongside my own favourites as an alternative take.

After Oramo, there is a clear gap in the rankings, then - two to go!
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 21, 2017, 03:13:36 PM
As the clear frontrunners, little to choose between No.2 (ukrneal's 1st choice) and No.10 (Senta's and Cato's pick, and never lower than 4th).

No.2 is
...
"One can really feel the long line here. Build up and release are extremely well done. Bravo."
"The crescendos are CRESCENDOS!!! "
...
Karajan/BPO/DG (1967) 23:18

Huh - not a Scandinavian connection in sight!
Recorded as long ago as 1967, and by a long way the oldest recording in this comparison - but you'd never know.  A lengthy timing and a stately approach throughout that I think fits this music really well.  Only Bernstein/VPO and Georg Tintner are slower than this in my collection, and neither of those are convincing all of the time, in the way that Karajan is here.
This was Karajan's second recording of the 7th - but he was an advocate of Sibelius' music at a time when the composer was almost falling into neglect - there are no less than eight Karajan recordings of the 5th listed, and his recordings of the brooding but problematic 4th set the gold standard for more recent interpretations.  Credit to HvK for the level of acceptance that Sibelius enjoys among music-lovers today.   Surprising then that this is an incomplete cycle - though DG have added the first 3 symphonies conducted by Kamu (see above) to make a set.
I bought this on vinyl back in the early '70s ...




No.10 is
...
"this one is also making more extreme and specific statements."
"the playing in the antiphonal section contains more drama and intensity than other versions: this is no tippy-toe ballet music.  The dramatic climax is just that!"
...
Colin Davis/LSO Live (2003) 22:08

Yet another recording dating from 2003 and part of a cycle that is Davis' third Sibelius cycle, the previous two being the LSO and the Boston SO.  The LSO Live soundscape is sometimes criticised as being a bit dry, but I must say I don't really notice a problem here.  This complete cycle, which includes Kullervo and some other orchestral music, is sometimes available at a super-bargain price - in fact while preparing for this comparison I obtained the whole lot as downloads from Amazon UK for just over £5.  This 7th has a 'sweet spot' duration of 22:08 - identical to Segerstam.  Davis/LSO Live has some remarkable Building A Library palmares - top choice in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th symphonies - the BBC showing a bit of an anglo-centric bias, methinks!

Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: mc ukrneal on March 21, 2017, 03:54:05 PM
As the clear frontrunners, little to choose between No.2 (ukrneal's 1st choice) and No.10 (Senta's and Cato's pick, and never lower than 4th).

No.2 is
...
"One can really feel the long line here. Build up and release are extremely well done. Bravo."
"The crescendos are CRESCENDOS!!! "
...
Karajan/BPO/DG (1967) 23:18

Huh - not a Scandinavian connection in sight!
Recorded as long ago as 1967, and by a long way the oldest recording in this comparison - but you'd never know.  A lengthy timing and a stately approach throughout that I think fits this music really well.  Only Bernstein/VPO and Georg Tintner are slower than this in my collection, and neither of those are convincing all of the time, in the way that Karajan is here.
This was Karajan's second recording of the 7th - but he was an advocate of Sibelius' music at a time when the composer was almost falling into neglect - there are no less than eight Karajan recordings of the 5th listed, and his recordings of the brooding but problematic 4th set the gold standard for more recent interpretations.  Credit to HvK for the level of acceptance that Sibelius enjoys among music-lovers today.   Surprising then that this is an incomplete cycle - though DG have added the first 3 symphonies conducted by Kamu (see above) to make a set.
I bought this on vinyl back in the early '70s ...




No.10 is
...
"this one is also making more extreme and specific statements."
"the playing in the antiphonal section contains more drama and intensity than other versions: this is no tippy-toe ballet music.  The dramatic climax is just that!"
...
Colin Davis/LSO Live (2003) 22:08

Yet another recording dating from 2003 and part of a cycle that is Davis' third Sibelius cycle, the previous two being the LSO and the Boston SO.  The LSO Live soundscape is sometimes criticised as being a bit dry, but I must say I don't really notice a problem here.  This complete cycle, which includes Kullervo and some other orchestral music, is sometimes available at a super-bargain price - in fact while preparing for this comparison I obtained the whole lot as downloads from Amazon UK for just over £5.  This 7th has a 'sweet spot' duration of 22:08 - identical to Segerstam.  Davis/LSO Live has some remarkable Building A Library palmares - top choice in the 2nd, 3rd and 5th symphonies - the BBC showing a bit of an anglo-centric bias, methinks!


A great read. Would you be surprised to learn that I was not particularly interested in Sibelius until hearing his first symphony performed by Karajan (EMI)? Ever since then (and only 5-10 years ago), I have been much more interested in Sibelius. By the way, I have already ordered this! :)

Thanks for putting this together!!!
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 22, 2017, 05:52:40 AM
Glad you enjoyed it - and I enjoyed setting it out.  Looking at that cover art - personally I try not to see this as 'nature music' but when so many record companies persist in associating images like these it becomes rather hard to ignore!  That 2nd image by the way I think is more 'Symphony 6' than 'Symphony 7'.  ;)
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 22, 2017, 06:06:04 AM
Glad you enjoyed it - and I enjoyed setting it out.  Looking at that cover art - personally I try not to see this as 'nature music' but when so many record companies persist in associating images like these it becomes rather hard to ignore!  That 2nd image by the way I think is more 'Symphony 6' than 'Symphony 7'.  ;)

Many thanks for the organizing!  So those incredible CRESCENDOS!!! were from Herr Karajan's baton! 8)  And Colin Davis!  I remember buying his recording of the Second Symphony (1960's sometime) and finding it perfect!

 
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Mahlerian on March 22, 2017, 07:52:30 AM
Thanks for running the comparison.  I'm not too surprised that I didn't pick the Karajan, personally, as I explained before.  My first exposure to Sibelius's symphonies was through Davis's Boston set (I liked them immediately), but I don't remember it well enough now to do comparisons.

I wouldn't describe the Fourth Symphony as "problematic," though.  Difficult perhaps, enigmatic certainly, but as perfectly crafted as any of Sibelius's symphonies, and my own favorite of the set.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 22, 2017, 08:20:22 AM
Thanks for running the comparison.  I'm not too surprised that I didn't pick the Karajan, personally, as I explained before.  My first exposure to Sibelius's symphonies was through Davis's Boston set (I liked them immediately), but I don't remember it well enough now to do comparisons.

I wouldn't describe the Fourth Symphony as "problematic," though.  Difficult perhaps, enigmatic certainly, but as perfectly crafted as any of Sibelius's symphonies, and my own favorite of the set.

Amen!  The First, Third, and Fourth do not get enough love!  I have a Jarvi Third which is quite well done!

Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Ken B on March 22, 2017, 08:40:32 AM
I did not participate but I am shocked. Shocked that the scores look so right! Usually there's some shameful surprise! Overall I have a marked preference for that Karajan as a complete recording, but the Davis is great. I prefer Berglund's older EMI set to the newer one.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 22, 2017, 10:56:25 AM
Amen!  The First, Third, and Fourth do not get enough love!  I have a Jarvi Third which is quite well done!

Oh well the 4th is certainly my favourite of the seven as well.  It just didn't lend itself very well to this mini-blind format (and I don't have quite as many recordings in my collection).

I was interested to read today that Karajan never performed the 3rd - still less recorded it, the symphony was simply not in his repertoire.  And the BPO had never played it, until Simon Rattle introduced them to it about 8 years ago.

I conclude (just a wild guess, and he's not going to contradict me) that Karajan didn't really like any of the early symphonies.  (In which case, I rather agree.)  Perhaps, as a noted interpreter of the Tchaikovsky symphonies, he felt that early Sibelius hadn't really offered any progress over Tchaik.  Rather like Boulez not conducting Shostakovich, becuse he felt the music was no advance over Mahler.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 22, 2017, 11:04:19 AM
Usually there's some shameful surprise!

Yeah!
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 22, 2017, 12:40:33 PM
I did not participate but I am shocked. Shocked that the scores look so right! Usually there's some shameful surprise!

I LOVE shameful surprises! 8)

e.g. "And #2 was...GILBERT KAPLAN! ??? :o 8)
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Ken B on March 22, 2017, 01:51:10 PM
I LOVE shameful surprises! 8)

Well, then, put on an Ives disc at random!  ;) :laugh:
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony + Ives Robt. Browning Overture!
Post by: Cato on March 22, 2017, 01:59:47 PM
Well, then, put on an Ives disc at random!  ;) :laugh:

Great idea!  ;) 0:)

One of my favorite works:

LEOPOLD conducting IVES!!!

https://www.youtube.com/v/KsCVXDH2T9U

Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: aukhawk on March 23, 2017, 03:40:59 AM
Which Ives?  That's the unanswered question.  I'm in the dark about that one.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 23, 2017, 03:47:06 AM
The Gong Show!

http://www.youtube.com/v/hmtmXN2AfSE
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 23, 2017, 05:01:53 PM
I just listened to the DGG Bernstein recording with headphones: one occasionally hears him breathing and "oohing" and "aaahing" especially toward the end.

My objection from earlier stands, but not a bad performance overall.
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Senta on March 29, 2017, 07:38:57 PM
Finally made it back to sift through the results! Cool to see some of my wild stabs weren't tooo far off.

Thrilled and not at all surprised about Sir Colin Davis being the first choice!

I've thought about getting that set before and this seems like a good reason now ;)

Also, I need the Oramo recording! The clip was great! Feels totally authentic and just..right somehow. I'm often impressed when I encounter his work but don't really have many of his recordings.

BTW I just read too that he has been appointed as the next teacher of conductors at the Sibelius Academy, starting in 2020:

http://slippedisc.com/2017/03/maestro-move-sakari-takes-over-at-sibelius-academy/

Oh and the Karajan recording - well, the clip was very interesting indeed, I'd like to hear the rest to see what else he has to say for fun!

It certainly reminded me of just why we collect recordings like crazy people around here - so many very different opinions about the same black spots on the page!  :D
Title: Re: Mini-blind comparison: Sibelius 7th Symphony
Post by: Cato on March 31, 2017, 10:56:11 AM
Sadly, and a little amazingly, YouTube offers none of the symphonies as conducted by the great Akeo Watanabe!

A used set is available with the symphonies 1, 2, 5, and 7 on Amazon.  Otherwise, a complete set is over $200.00 used!