Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; En Saga; Luonnotar

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Profil Hanssler
ALBUM TITLE: Sibelius
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; En Saga; Luonnotar
PERFORMER: Ute Selbig (soprano); Staatskapelle Dresden/Colin Davis
CATALOGUE NO: PH 05049
The Staatskapelle’s sound in Sibelius’s Second may not have the invigorating cool clarity of, say, the Gothenburg under Neeme Järvi. But then there’s nothing wrong with bringing sensual warmth to this music, which was, after all, written in the Mediterranean, not the Tundra. The East German horn vibrato is a slight surprise at first, but the phrasing is so shapely and expressive that I soon ceased to notice it. En Saga too is strong and impassioned, and Davis’s profound understanding of Sibelius’s formal thinking holds the ear, as in the Symphony – a little more pathos in the desolate final clarinet solo and it might have made a recommendation.

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Luonnotar however is disappointing, chiefly because soprano Ute Selbig lacks the necessary radiance (and, occasionally, security), and her articulation sounds over-careful. Järvi is still my first choice for the tone poems (Soile Isokoski is a clear winner in Luonnotar), while Davis and the Boston Symphony (Philips) are just that bit more convincing in Symphony No 2.

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Stephen Johnson