Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; Karelia Suite; Finlandia

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Karelia Suite; Finlandia
PERFORMER: RPO/Charles Mackerras
Sibelius is not a composer I would immediately associate with Charles Mackerras, although, curiously enough, he has recorded the Second Symphony before. On the strength of this wonderfully detailed new recording, Mackerras can lay claim to being a Sibelian of distinction. His performance makes this familiar work seem vibrantly new: scrupulous attention to the letter of the score and a flair for the dramatic produce a reading which is a joy to the mind as well as the heart.


Each phrase and dynamic marking is in place, and yet there is never a sense of the performance being pedantic or overly cautious. The result, particularly in the last two movements, is revelatory. At times the Scherzo has an almost vicious bite, and the finale projects a craggy grandeur which refuses to descend to bombast. Indeed, this is one of the most exciting recordings I have heard of this movement. Complementing Mackerras’s integrity with the composer’s intentions is a recording which allows every instrumental shade to emerge in full glory. The two accompanying lollipops – familiar, too, from a host of other discs – have a comparable freshness. These performances could well turn into a standard recommendation. Jan Smaczny