Sibelius: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Iceland SO/Petri Sakari
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554377
Earlier issues in Petri Sakari’s Sibelius cycle have made a strong impression and so does this. Had I heard either of these performances in the concert hall I would have left feeling very satisfied. Both have a lot going for them. They are straightforward and unaffected, dedicated and selfless, and free from interpretative point-making. Tempi are for the most part uncommonly well judged, and you feel that Sakari really sees the works as a whole, rather than as a sequence of wonderful episodes. Only the first movement of the Fourth strikes me as just a little wanting in concentration and tautness but everything else comes off well. The finale is particularly imposing, well built up and with a good feel for its changing moods and powerful currents. The closing paragraph with the descending oboe figure, which Sibelius told his son-in-law Jussi Jalas represented Peter’s thrice denial of Christ, is moving and atmospheric. The first movement of the Fifth has splendid breadth and the transition into the scherzo section is expertly handled. The Iceland Orchestra may not be in the luxury league but their responses are keen and alert, and the performances have much greater inner life than, say, Paavo Berglund’s set on EMI. Moreover the sound is truthfully balanced and well detailed. Of course, the field is so keenly competitive with outstanding mid-price accounts from Ashkenazy, Colin Davis, Rattle and Karajan that Sakari is unlikely to be your first choice. All the same, no one investing in this disc is likely to feel short-changed. Robert Layton