The Finnish people have never felt more united than they did one century ago. Russia’s rule over Finland was becoming more and more oppressive and preparations were being made to amalgamate the Finnish army with the Russian war machine. The group of artists to which Jean Sibelius belonged made no secret of their patriotic convictions; the time for politically unengaged art was over. The great composer had, after all, himself created a hymn to his homeland with Finlandia in 1899 and another new composition by him would provide another powerful political statement. We know that these political developments were a cause of great concern to Sibelius; Erik Tawaststjerna’s monumental monograph leaves us in no doubt over this. Sibelius was nonetheless particularly irritated by comments made by Robert Kajanus, Finland’s most well-known conductor, who interpreted the Second Symphony as a musical depiction of the resistance and the triumph of the Finnish people in an article for the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper a week after the work’s premiere; this opinion was consequently adopted by many. Sibelius wanted nothing to do with such political interpretations and said as much later in a letter to Georg Schneevoigt, another conductor, after Schneevoigt had explained the symphony in similar terms in a programme note for its performance in Boston. For Sibelius the symphonic form was the means par excellence for an escape from programme music, for this was what was continually being demanded of him and which he composed because he needed the commission fees.
Total time: 00:43:42
Bruel & Kyaer
|Original Recording Format|
Everett Porter, Carl Schuurbiers, Daan van Aalst
Concergebouw Amsterdam, The Netherlands
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||November 11, 2016|
Right from the opening pulsating string figures, one realises that this will be a very fine reading of Sibelius’ enigmatic symphony. Pacing throughout is nigh-on perfect, as are the allusions he draws from the score; at once rich and sparse. The RCO are, as always, superb – their tone is beautiful without being rich for the sake of being rich and whilst this is a live recording, the ensemble is wonderful and they exhibit sensitive musicianship throughout. The partnership between Jansons and the RCOA is clearly developing into something very special indeed. The engineers deserve our thanks for they have captured a most beautiful sound, clear but rounded (not a dry sound to be heard) and the ambience of the Concertgebouw is very well reproduced. A credit must go to the audience too for until the final peroration has concluded and they burst into spontaneous applause, the listener will have no idea that this is a concert performance. Performance, Stereo Sonics and Multichannel Sonics: 4.5 out of 5 Stars.
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