Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D; Karelia Suite

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in D; Karelia Suite
PERFORMER: New Zealand SO/Pietari Inkinen
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572704

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At first this Symphony seemed fast. But a quick comparison with a few other versions shows that Inkinen’s basic tempo isn’t particularly speedy: he just doesn’t hang about, and there are many places where he needs more flexibility in the phrasing and rubato. The chorale-like brass passage about two-thirds of the way through the first movement is very literal, and the ebb and flow of the music often sounds calculated, rather than felt. This is the exact opposite of Osmo Vänskä’s recording with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, one of the best modern alternatives. But the New Zealanders’ playing is expert, and the well-balanced and rounded recording gives due weight to Sibelius’s double bass and tuba parts.
 
Come the second movement, Inkinen’s unwillingness to take on board Sibelius’s opening rubato indication robs the music of shape, and again, there’s an impression of the foot pushing too hard on the accelerator later on. Inkinen is much more suited to the impulsive music in the Vivacissimo, but the emergence of the great theme of the linked Finale is uninvolving. Which is also how I would describe the Finale itself: more give and take, and a warmer, less mechanical sense of phrasing could have given this recording a real lift. Similarly, the Karelia Suite never rises to the occasion. Martin Cotton