Sibelius, Tubin

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius,Tubin
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Symphony No. 2
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi
An unusually effective coupling. Sibelius may have had all sorts of ideas in mind when he composed his Second Symphony in 1901-2, but it came to be seen as an act of defiance against the Russian cultural colonisation of his native Finland. Forty-two years later, the Estonian émigré Eduard Tubin wrote his Fifth in protest at the Soviet annexation of his country, and so clearly aligned himself with Sibelius. The low pizzicato strings at the beginning of Tubin’s slow movement sound like a direct invocation of the Sibelius. But the two symphonies also stand well beside each other as powerful, spiritually independent examples of organic-dramatic thinking. Listen to the first couple of minutes of the Sibelius and then the Tubin and you’ll experience the same feeling of being caught in a musical current, even though the ideas and sounds are quite different. All credit to Paavo Järvi – these are gripping, deeply felt performances. His Sibelius Second is as fine as any that has appeared in recent years – as convincing as Osmo Vänskä on BIS (less elemental perhaps, but expressively warmer) and Colin Davis’s magisterial older version with the Boston Symphony on Philips. As for the Tubin, Järvi makes an even stronger case here than his father Neeme Järvi in his world-premiere recording of the work for BIS. Even if you have a thoroughly satisfactory version of the Sibelius I’d recommend you get this – I don’t think it will disappoint. Stephen Johnson