Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 4
PERFORMER: CBSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85776-2
Sibelius’s Second Symphony has always been well served on record and fares uncommonly well on this new disc. Sakari Oramo confirms the positive impression he made in his recent Grieg programme. His reading has a natural eloquence and is finely proportioned. In other words, phrasing is unaffected and well paced, and climaxes beautifully prepared. There is no playing to the gallery and the finale has breadth and dignity. Only a decade separates the Second from the Fourth Symphony but they inhabit totally different worlds. It was in Birmingham that Sibelius introduced the English musical public to this symphony in 1912. Oramo is inside this score and has a splendid feel for the timeless quality of the slow movement, in which the music so often seems to stand still and one is scarcely aware of the bar-line. In the scherzo I am not wholly persuaded by his rather steep tempo change at the tranquillo marking, but he is a sound and perceptive guide to the mysteries of this score. Sibelius himself said that the opening bars of the whole work should sound ‘as harsh as fate’ and in Oramo’s hands, there is no attempt to glamorise the music’s surface. Sibelius’s son-in-law, the conductor Jussi Jalas, once speculated about the oboe cry at the end of the finale representing Peter’s thrice-denial of Christ, and this strange passage is eloquently characterised. Two expertly recorded performances, which while not necessarily to be preferred to Karajan, Colin Davis or Osmo Vänskä, belong among the best.

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