Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius: Complete Symphonies (Nos 1-7)

Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius: Complete Symphonies (Nos 1-7)

Article excerpt

Sibelius [DVD] [BR] [G]

Complete Symphonies (Nos 1-7)

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Hannu Lintu

ArtHaus Musik (F) (5) [DVD] 101 796;

(F) (3) [BR] 101 797 (9h 47' * NTSC * 16:9 * 1080i *

DTS-HD MA5.1, DD5.1 & PCM stereo * 0 * s)

Recorded live

Includes Introductions to the symphonies, Documentary 'Sibelius, Lintu and Seven Symphonies' & 'Sort of Sibelius!', a short film series by Piia Hirvensalo

I doubt Hannu Lintu's Sibelius would sound the way it does here had the conductor not been so deeply involved in the exploratory projects that make up the bulk of this set's 10-hour playing time. In the introductory documentary we see the conductor working through the known knowns of Sibelius's various mental and creative states in Vienna, Berlin, Rapallo, Stockholm, Helsinki and other cities associated with the symphonies. Before each performance with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, filmed live at the Helsinki Music Centre, Lintu and the composer Osmo Tapio Raihala engage in movement-by-movement analyses of each symphony's themes (relevant notation appears under footage of the orchestra demonstrating said themes in the Centre's basement studio). Lintu has always had an interesting analytical perspective on the symphonies but he delves even further here. One strand he appears to enunciate in both his commentary and his performances is that Sibelius was wild and untempered at the time of the First Symphony; that the tragedy of infant death led to the searching, tortured elements we hear in the Second; and that he relaxed into his unique concept of symphonic construction with the Third.

Still, I find it hard to reconcile Lintu's histrionic, borderline caricature approach to the First Symphony. But it tells us what's in store aesthetically: delicious orchestral blend; intensely disciplined strings (though Lintu doesn't articulate with the forensic detail of Osmo Vanska); some outstanding individual players; understated camerawork; and a photogenic hall whose dark seating and off-white stage were built for TV broadcast. Enshrined in that is something else, too: an important and unparalleled audiovisual document of a Finnish orchestra, audience and venue close-up in a landmark year for the country. What you see feels entirely of the here and now; the series of elegant butterfly tattoos that runs up the right forearm of harpist Laura Hynninen is so redolent of time and place while somehow sensitive to this winged music as well.

In the Second Symphony, Lintu is less hot-headed, underscoring the score's introspective working-out and shades of tragedy. …

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