Thread: Sibelius: Complete Symphonies (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Berglund), Warner Classics

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Post by Luukas October 20, 2015 (1 of 16)
In 2013 Warner Classics honored Paavo Berglund (1929-2012) by releasing his authoritative first Sibelius cycle with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (recorded between 1972-1977). It has been the clear first choice for many.
I bought the box set and indeed: Berglund really found the true language to Sibelius's music. The symphonies were mostly recorded at the Guildhall, Southampton, which airy acoustics really worked with the works. Especially the Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82, is impressively performed and recorded.
It would be great to have this legendary Sibelius cycle on hybrid multi-channel SACD. Is it recorded on quad? PENTATONE is still waiting for the new licenses from Deutsche Grammophon but the new series - which contains remastered quadraphonic recordings from the catalogue of Warner Classics - would be a great pleasure for customers.
Any comments?

Post by Ubertrout October 20, 2015 (2 of 16)
You know about the DTS quad CD of Berglund doing Grieg and Alfven with these forces, right?

Anyway, according to the surround discography, Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, The Bard & Scenes Historiques were released as quad LPs, while Symphonies 5, 7, Kullervo & En Saga were only ever released in stereo.

EMI/Angel released by far the most on quad, and there's been a long call for Pentatone to do some re-releases from their vaults. I imagine the logistics aren't exactly simple, though, and to-date Pentatone has only worked with Universal Classics.

Also...while it would surely be nice to have everything done in quad on CD, and I have this on CD and enjoy it, I think the new BIS recordings of these symphonies are more appealing than a remastered quad recording.

Post by Luukas October 20, 2015 (3 of 16)
Ubertrout said:

Anyway, according to the surround discography, Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, The Bard & Scenes Historiques were released as quad LPs, while Symphonies 5, 7, Kullervo & En Saga were only ever released in stereo.

THAT is really interesting! Berglund's accounts of Symphonies Nos. 1-4 and 6 are really revelatory. Sixth Symphony is really one of the most beautiful accounts ever on disc. Berglund offers an mournful approach of the Fourth Symphony. It would be also great to have "Scenes Historiques I & II" on SACD - we haven't yet the surround sound record of those works.

Recording info:
- Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 (39'00)
Recorded: 9-10.IX.1974, Guildhall, Southampton
Producer: John Willan
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

- Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 (44'55)
Recorded: 23-24.XI.1976, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Producer: David Mottley
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

- Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 (31'14)
Recorded: 20-21.VI.1977, Guildhall, Southampton
Producer: David Mottley
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

- Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63 (37'22)
Recorded: 3-4.VI.1975, Studio 1, Abbey Road, London
Producer: David Mottley
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

- Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104 (31'32)
Recorded: 24.VI.1973, Kingsway Hall, London
Producer: David Mottley
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

- The Bard, Op. 64 (8'14)
Recorded: 24.VI.1976, Guildhall, Southampton
Producer: Suvi Raj Grubb
Balance engineer: Stuart Eltham

Post by hiredfox October 21, 2015 (4 of 16)
Luukas said:

In 2013 Warner Classics honored Paavo Berglund (1929-2012) by releasing his authoritative first Sibelius cycle with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (recorded between 1972-1977). It has been the clear first choice for many,

Any comments?

"the clear first choice for many"

Not many would have claimed that even ardent fans of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra!

A few facts to support your statement would be welcome to this most ardent of fans who attended every single one of Berglund's live Sibelius concerts in the 1970 that pre-empted these recordings.

Burglund was far too analytical to understand the passion of Sibelius' sound world. He dotted "i's" and crossed "t's" - of course he did - but very much in an academic way. In performance he was far too irritable and precise to let the music go with the flow.

Ok, just once in a while he gave the strings their head or should I say 'heart' and there are indeed truly memorable moments notably in the 3rd and 5th but far too few and the set overall will disappoint most.

Post by Deribas October 21, 2015 (5 of 16)
hiredfox said:

"the clear first choice for many"

Not many would have claimed that even ardent fans of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra!

A few facts to support your statement would be welcome to this most ardent of fans who attended every single one of Berglund's live Sibelius concerts in the 1970 that pre-empted these recordings.

Burglund was far too analytical to understand the passion of Sibelius' sound world. He dotted "i's" and crossed "t's" - of course he did - but very much in an academic way. In performance he was far too irritable and precise to let the music go with the flow.

Ok, just once in a while he gave the strings their head or should I say 'heart' and there are indeed truly memorable moments notably in the 3rd and 5th but far too few and the set overall will disappoint most.

His one Sibelius SACD (2nd and 5th) is just dreary. My least favorite recording of these works, mostly sonically but also in terms of quality of playing he elicits. Certainly not at the level of the ongoing Minnesota/Vanska releases, or, from what I can gather, the recent BIS Kamu box. Kinda makes one think this (Berglund box) would be rather unnecessary?

Post by hiredfox October 21, 2015 (6 of 16)
Deribas said:

His one Sibelius SACD (2nd and 5th) is just dreary. My least favorite recording of these works, mostly sonically but also in terms of quality of playing he elicits. Certainly not at the level of the ongoing Minnesota/Vanska releases, or, from what I can gather, the recent BIS Kamu box. Kinda makes one think this (Berglund box) would be rather unnecessary?

Indeed.

Overall the most acclaimed surveys have been by Lorin Maazel with the Vienna Philharmonic and Colin Davis's early set with the Boston Symphony with the Sir Colin Davis 1996 recordings with the LSO almost matching his earlier achievement

The SACD set of SCD/LSO was less memorable one suspects because of failing mastery in his later years.

Post by Polarius T October 22, 2015 (7 of 16)
Let's not diss Berglund at all. For years it was this early set of his that was for me a "clear first choice" when I wanted to feel, experience, and understand the emotional content of Sibelius' music, to confront, come to terms with, and even perhaps be carried away by it (not a project to be taken lightly if you are a Finn born to, nourished and raised by this music but ultimately unsure of how deep your engagement with it should be).

Today this role has been taken over by Berglund's later set, for Finlandia, which does the same job for me plus much more.

But these earlier recordings by Berglund still carry for me the weight of coming across as the most "authentic," "real," or unaffected Sibelius performances I know of.

Can't stand the Anglo-Saxons and Germans doing this music at all, including Colin Davis and Lorin Maazel (but excluding Kurt Sanderling). They totally fail to live or actually understand it. The Soviets didn't really get it, either, but in contrast managed to come up with something wholly credible as a clearly alternative way to do it, an alternative that convinces and despite everything moves in the same universe and even horizon of experience and meaning.

I am for some reason not crazy about Vänskä, either (maybe because I recall him from his very early days conducting a local parish youth choir in musical selections and a geographical place I felt deep discomfort about), but am very much looking forward to the BIS Okko Kamu cycle - now there's another conductor who makes Sibelius feel to me unforced, unaffected, and free of "interpretation" ("real," "genuine," and therefore very powerful and valid).

Post by hiredfox October 22, 2015 (8 of 16)
Hi Konrad.

I believe the Brits we're the first people outside Finland to take Sibelius into their hearts and the message to the new and old worlds germinated from those seeds. It may be more than co-incidence that Colin Davis has been so widely acclaimed for his successive interpretations of Sibelius' music. It is too much of a generalisation to suggest that conductors of certain or even most nationalities fail to understand what his music is about or to imply that Jean Sibelius wrote his music only for Finns.

It is true that certain conductors appear to shy away from confronting his music as indeed others avoid the post romantic Russian composers, Ivan Fischer - a central European - for example seems far more at ease with central European repertory. This has probably more to do with his own preferences and psychological make-up than any suggestion that his nationality is a factor.

Post by Fitzcaraldo215 October 22, 2015 (9 of 16)
hiredfox said:

Hi Konrad.

I believe the Brits we're the first people outside Finland to take Sibelius into their hearts and the message to the new and old worlds germinated from those seeds. It may be more than co-incidence that Colin Davis has been so widely acclaimed for his successive interpretations of Sibelius' music. It is too much of a generalisation to suggest that conductors of certain or even most nationalities fail to understand what his music is about or to imply that Jean Sibelius wrote his music only for Finns.

It is true that certain conductors appear to shy away from confronting his music as indeed others avoid the post romantic Russian composers, Ivan Fischer - a central European - for example seems far more at ease with central European repertory. This has probably more to do with his own preferences and psychological make-up than any suggestion that his nationality is a factor.

I agree. The notion of greater "authenticity" of music, especially based on nationality of the conductor, is highly overrated. In any case, this is art we are dealing with. And, the greater the art, the more it is enhanced by many alternative points of view. It is a language that speaks to all humanity and transcends nationality.

Let me give you a pertinent example from today that superficially seems quite incongruous: Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan and their superb interpretations of J.S. Bach.

Post by hiredfox October 22, 2015 (10 of 16)
Fitzcaraldo215 said:

Let me give you a pertinent example from today that superficially seems quite incongruous: Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan and their superb interpretations of J.S. Bach.

Thanks for the heads up on that recording. Probably through bigotry I tend to overlook recordings of European repertory by Japanese orchestras and ensemble. Not sure how my prejudices relates to the central point 'though.

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