Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7 - Søndergård
Linn Records CKD 462
Classical - Orchestral
Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Thomas Søndergård (Sondergard)
Building on this triumphant debut the 2013 BBC Proms saw Søndergård and a reinvigorated BBC NOW win over the critics with their charismatic performance and formidable interpretations of 20th century repertoire. Stating his intentions the new Principal Conductor was clear: ‘I can’t wait to discover Sibelius all over again with my new orchestra’.
With their nationalist themes Symphonies 2 & 7 are perfect repertoire for Søndergård and his orchestra to make their symphonic recording debut. The Second Symphony marked a major step in Sibelius’ development as a composer, and remains one of his most popular works.
Symphony No. 7 is notable for being a one-movement symphony and is completely original in form, subtle in its handling of tempi, individual in its treatment of key and wholly organic in growth and is considered Sibelius’ most remarkable compositional achievement.
Review by Graham Williams - March 16, 2015
Having been been most impressed with the various performances I have heard on BBC radio given by the Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, in his capacity as both Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, I was looking forward with keen anticipation to this recording, the first of a new Sibelius Symphony cycle for Linn to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer. Sadly my hopes for something special were dashed by these competent but, on the whole, prosaic readings of both the 2nd and 7th Symphonies that launch this cycle.
Søndergård's account of the 2nd Symphony starts well at a fleet tempo that matches Sibelius's marking of 'Allegretto' for this movement's opening, but it quickly becomes clear that the orchestral playing, though undeniably professional, is routine; missing the necessary vital spark to make his performance stand out from the vast number of alternative versions on disc of this popular work. It is difficult to know who to blame for the absence of drama and real engagement evident in all four movements – especially as Søndergård's tempi are anything but lethargic, and there is some fine solo work heard in both Symphonies, notably from the BBC NOW woodwinds.
Søndergård's 7th Symphony is better, but it also lacks stature. The famous opening of the Symphony, – a rising C major scale – here sounds just that, no more no less – the playing conveying little sense of grandeur or expectation. Once again the performance is accurate with Søndergård skilfully handling the transitions between the work's sections seamlessly, but ultimately it seems superficial when compared with some of the many great recordings that are available of this masterpiece.
To cap it all the Linn recording, produced and engineered by Philip Hobbs, is warm and clear, but thanks to the rather anonymous acoustic signature of the BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, it lacks presence and delivers little dynamic impact.
One can only hope for something more compelling from Søndergård and the BBC NOW in the remaining five Sibelius Symphonies in what is already an overcrowded field.
Sadly not recommended
Copyright © 2015 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net