Sibelius: Symphony No. 7; Lemminkainen Suite

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: RCA
WORKS: Symphony No. 7; Lemminkainen Suite
PERFORMER: Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 60575 2 DDD
For Sibelius the symphonist the key factor was current – a flow like that of a great river. Judging from these recordings, the young Finnish composer Jukka-Pekka Saraste agrees. He doesn’t linger over inviting passages or take liberties with Sibelius’s carefully graded tempo markings. His broad tempo in the third of the Lemminkainen movements is surprising at first; but ‘broadly’ is how it is marked.

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The trouble is that Saraste sometimes seems to try too hard. He not only misses the light, dancing vitality in the Seventh Symphony’s later sections, but his determination somehow weakens the elemental strength of the final climax. The playing can be intense, tender or powerful, but it can also be rough-edged, as in the symphony’s trombone theme. Recordings are vivid, but a little too close for complete comfort in places. Stephen Johnson