Sibelius: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 3

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Finlandia
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: CO of Europe/Paavo Berglund
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-23388-2
This is Paavo Berglund’s third recording of these Sibelius symphonies. He is a sound rather than inspired Sibelian and offers us the music plain and unadorned, generally (though not always) free from any kind of point-making. His new set has the merit of dedicated playing from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Their lighter-weight string tone does not really suit the Second Symphony, though the wind-writing gains in prominence. I can’t say I care for the ugly stress he gives the rhetorical string passage in the first movement, though the movement has more life than in either of his earlier recordings.

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By far the best thing here is the First Symphony – the first movement is taut and full of spirit, and the playing has an abundance of character. I can imagine early performances of it sounding like this. The Third Symphony moves with genuine momentum and the tempo of the slow movement is very well judged. The finale does not quite take fire. The performances inspire respect without making the pulse quicken, except for the First. The sound has clarity and presence, but this hardly represents a challenge to Colin Davis (RCA) or, in Nos 1 & 2, Karajan (EMI) – or to look no further afield than Finland, Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS). Robert Layton