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Sibelius: Symphonies 1 & 4 - Davis

Sibelius: Symphonies 1 & 4 - Davis

LSO Live  LSO0601

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Sibelius: Symphony No. 1, Symphony No. 4

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis (conductor)


Although influenced by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius drew on his native Finland for much of the inspiration for his First Symphony and began to develop a distinctive style that would lead to him being considered one of the great symphonists. The Fourth Symphony was written following successful treatment for cancer and is his darkest symphony, in which he confronts his own mortality.

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Comment by threerandot - July 7, 2016 (1 of 8)

Review by Luukas January 13, 2015
Performance: 5
Sonics: 5 (MCH)

Sir Colin Davis was great Sibelius interpreter, and his recordings got many acclaimed awards. Davis recorded three Sibelius cycles: first with Boston Symphony Orchestra and two others with London Symphony Orchestra. His last cycle - this is the first disc - was live from the Barbican Hall, London.

I have many recordings of Sibelius First Symphony. My first introduction was Leif Segerstam's performance with Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (Ondine). This is also very good recording; it is dramatic and live concert's feeling comes very close by 5.0 surround sound.

First movement, Andante ma non troppo, (11'54") begin's lonely clarinet's quiet melody. Here it is very beautifully performed: Andrew Marriner (first clarinetist) plays touchingly and sensitively. Main theme is peaceful, but it isn't too slow. Osmo Vänskä's interpretation with Minnesota Orchestra is much quicker: first movement's total time is only 9 minutes!

Second movement, Andante (ma non troppo lento) (9'27") is very beautiful. Davis really understands this. He groans with Tchaikovskian melody. It is touching experience. The fast middle scene is powerful, and Davis reaches its freighting feeling very well.

Third movement, Scherzo (5'15") is just OK. Its performance is quite normal. But the emotionally finale, (Quasi una fantasia): Andante (12'59") is this performance's real culmination. Strings singing melody is unforgettable, and Davis gives his all knowledge to it. Dramatic moments are like thunders.

Fourth Symphony (1910-1911) is different work. It is dark composition, it doesn't contains happy end. Davis' interpretation is excellent.

Neil Hutchinson's and Jonathan Stokes' engineering is also very good. For example my subwoofer switched on when the bass drum strikes in the finale.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - June 16, 2017 (2 of 8)

Review by threerandot March 29, 2010
Performance: 5
Sonics: 5

Colin Davis easily has the sweep and grandeur of these works under his fingertips. An excellent program of Sibelius music!

I have been a big fan of Sibelius for a while now and consider his symphonies on par with those of Mahler and Bruckner.

These are exciting performances with Davis bringing out the excitement and intensity of these pieces in large, bold gestures. The LSO are first rate and have no visible trouble playing these symphonies. Both performances are memorable and the fourth has all the brooding mystery and intensity one could wish for. The first movement of the fourth has wonderful and exciting climaxes that these works truly deserve.

With a first rate DSD recording there is no detectable harshness and plenty of air and warmth. Strings are lush and beautiful and the balances is just right. The rear speakers bring out the ambience of the original location beautifully.

This is a disc for true Sibelius fans and all I can say is I want more Sibelius on SACD, especially recorded in DSD. There is a wonderful selection of Mahler recordings now released. Now how about more Sibelius on SACD? Are the labels listening?

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 22, 2017 (3 of 8)

SACD-MAN said: "Now how about more Sibelius on SACD? Are the labels listening?"

I think there is no need to ask labels to listen to your plea as they have done their homework already a long time ago without anyone asking. Please do look under composers/Sibelius and you will find that of the second symphony alone there are 27 versions available and some are very good indeed. By the way, did you hear Colin Davis humming along?

Comment by john hunter - June 23, 2017 (4 of 8)

Plenty Of Sibelius about and would put Vanska or Kamu far ahead of the Davis releases.

Comment by Jan Arell - June 25, 2017 (5 of 8)

JH, I totally agree. And, BTW, didn't Colin Davis record a Sibelius cycle with the Bayerischen (Bavarian) Radio Orchestra as well? Released on RCA if I remember correctly. Or was it only a few of the symphonies?

Comment by hiredfox - June 26, 2017 (6 of 8)

Er, no John. Vanska is only good in patches - notably 1 & 4 and Kamu, hmm!

Finns are not aggressive people in my personal experience and dealings but gently determined and reserved rather than being forceful. Even as a Finn, Vanska for me is just too assertive to capture the bleakness of his countries life, landscapes and legends.

Berglund always seems (sic: to me) to have empathised most with his fellow countryman even 'though the composer confided in later years that nobody had really understood the nature and structure of his compositions.

Comment by john hunter - June 30, 2017 (7 of 8)

Never heard the Berglund but Davis has never worked for me.
Surprised that the Kamu doesn't please you Mr Fox!!

Comment by hiredfox - July 9, 2017 (8 of 8)

Each Sibelius symphony is uniquely individual. Whilst there is unmistakably a composer's signature that identifies them instantly as his works they seem otherwise to be unrelated. Maybe the reason that conductors struggle with them is that the author himself may also have struggled to find meaning or expression in what he was trying to say.

His compositions are often alluded to as being 'architectures in sound', not in an organised way but through experimental organic growth from simple starting phrases - try this, try that to see what works best next and so on? On starting his journeys it seems he may have had no idea where or when it would end.

If this has any currency at all then it must be difficult for conductors to try and extract 'meaning' from his written scores or to get inside the composer's mind. If these compositions really are as haphazard as this makes it sound why would anybody expect any one conductor to get them right every time?

Berglund knew the composer and studied his works relentlessly. He was acknowledged as a leading authority of the works and as related elsewhere made numerous corrections to the original scores to improve them that were incorporated into his own performances. Whether or not the composer approved the corrections I cannot recall.

Davis appeared to have seen them as 'romantic' works but that may have been more to do with his romantic notions of a Finnish countryside seen from abroad rather than the harsh realities of living there and the Finnish persona. Critics have always loved the Davis interpretations but maybe they fell into the same trap? Personally I have tired of them over the years especially the later 'lush' versions on SACD.

Of course one might expect the Finnish conductors to get more into the core of the works as intended and Vanska for me does exceptionally well in his 1 & 4 coupling but lets me down elsewhere - notably 6 & 7 - but then again I have had a love / hate relationship with these symphonies over the years as well depending on my mood and indeed age, at times they have excited at others they have bored me stiff so what do I know?