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Cover

Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä

Sibelius Symphonies Nos 1 & 4

  • Type SACD hybrid
  • Label Bis
  • UPC 7318599919966
  • Catalog number BISSA 1996
  • Release date 01 March 2013
Physical (SACD hybrid)

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About the album

Of all of Jean Sibelius’ seven symphonies, the two recorded here are those that reveal the furthermost poles of his symphonic art; the one an essay in the received tradition, the other a work so original and inward-looking as to open up an entirely new world. Composed right around the turn of the previous century, the First Symphony may be described as a pivotal work in Sibelius’s career, in that he here took a decisive step away from the Wagnerian world that had occupied him so much in the 1890s, casting a personal vote of confidence in absolute music, and in the symphonic tradition. On the basis of a particular tunefulness, among other aspects, the First is often said to be the most Tchaikovskian of Sibelius’s symphonies. In contrast, the Fourth Symphony is extremely concise and highly concentrated both in terms of its musical material and the way Sibelius uses the orchestral forces – the scoring is in fact often compared to chamber music. Sibelius was well aware that his new symphony opened up an entirely foreign world, and said ‘there is absolutely nothing of the circus about it’. The initial reaction among critics and audiences was one of incomprehension and the work was denounced as ‘ultra-modern’ and even ‘cubist’. The present recording of these two works, by the Minnesota Orchestra and its music director Osmo Vänskä, follows on the same team’s disc with the Second and Fifth symphonies, hailed at its release as ‘a fine start to what may be the benchmark cycle for the 21st century’ by Gramophone, and nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. 

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