Sibelius: Symphonies 3, 6 & 7 - Vänskä

Sibelius: Symphonies 3, 6 & 7 - Vänskä

BIS  BIS-2006

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Sibelius: Symphonies 3, 6 & 7

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä (conductor)

The first disc in the Sibelius cycle from Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra made the reviewer in Gramophone speculate about a 'benchmark cycle for the 21st century' whilst the second instalment received a Grammy for 'Best Orchestral Performance'. The long-awaited final disc in the cycle, with a playing time of 82 minutes, combines the Finnish master's third symphony, completed in 1907, with his two final works in the genre, composed more or less in tandem between 1922 and 1924. Symphony No. 3 in C major is Sibelius's most classical symphony, a radical change in direction after the opulence of its predecessor.

It has been claimed that the mastery of form in its first movement is comparable only to the greatest Viennese masters and at the same time the conductor Koussevitzky, one of the composer's strongest champions, spoke of it as 'music far in advance of its time'. Fifteen years later, and after the heroic Fifth Symphony, Sibelius again presented a symphony which surprised those admirers who expected more of the same. Sibelius gave Symphony No. 6 a refined modal flavouring, avoiding both virtuoso orchestral writing and massive climaxes, and likened it to an offering of 'pure spring water'. This he followed up immediately with what would become his symphonic swan song the stern and majestic Seventh Symphony. A one-movement work, it was at first billed as 'Fantasia sinfonica' but it is indeed a true symphony, its single movement portraying elements of all four movements of symphonic practice.

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PCM recording

Recorded in May/June 2015 at the Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, USA, 24/96

Producer: Robert Suff

Sound engineer: Jens Braun (Take5 Music Production)

Recording equipment: Neumann microphones; RME Micstasy microphone pre-amplifier and high-resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation (for SACD); B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones

Post-production: Editing: Jeffrey Ginn
Mixing: Jens Braun, Robert Suff

Executive producer: Robert Suff
Comments (14)

Comment by threerandot - July 21, 2016 (1 of 14)

Okay, this is a release I am very happy to see coming. I wonder if anyone else knows when this is going to be released in Canada and the US? Very happy this is finally coming!

Comment by Mark Novak - July 23, 2016 (2 of 14)

The official release date as per Naxos USA is September 9, 2016.

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - July 28, 2016 (3 of 14)

Thanks, Mark for the info. Looking forward to this!

Comment by SACD-MAN (threerandot) - July 28, 2016 (4 of 14)

Thanks, Mark for the info. Looking forward to this!

Comment by hiredfox - July 30, 2016 (5 of 14)

You can hear excerpts from every movement of all three symphonies on-line

Comment by William Hecht - August 1, 2016 (6 of 14)

I've been listening to this disc repeatedly for the last couple of days. The unfortunate labor strife that led to the extended delay in this last recording in the series seems, if anything, to have resulted in performances that are even more committed, even more powerful than their excellent predecessors. The recording quality is even better as well. I couldn't help but be swept away.

Comment by Jan Arell - August 5, 2016 (7 of 14)

I bought it today from in 5.0 surround flac files for just over 10 USD, and have listened once. Performance and sound are both glorious; the 7th, especially, is probably the best I have heard.

Comment by Jan Arell - August 5, 2016 (8 of 14)

(Double posting, sorry)

Comment by Jan Arell - August 5, 2016 (9 of 14)

Having heard that Vänskä's 7th twice again, I never before have heard how clearly classically it is built. Like an Allegro, an Andante, a Scherzo, and a long Finale. It's only 23 minutes long but how well it's done!!! It's like Mozart, or Haydn. Only some 150 years later.

Comment by Euell Neverno - August 8, 2016 (10 of 14)

Received a negative review in Classics Today, along with the others in this series for conducting.

Comment by Waveform - August 9, 2016 (11 of 14)

"Well, I don't know what to think about this disc. I'm currently listening to the finale of Symphony No. 3 and Vänskä's view seems to be too aggressive. I totally agree with David Hurwitz when he mentioned that the Vänskä/Minnesota cycle has been a disappointment. In most cases the atmosphere seems to be too serious. The natural flow of the music be conspicuous by one's absence.
The tempo choices of Vänskä are also worthy of attention. The second movement of Symphony No. 2, for example, took 16'30 while Kamu calculated it to 14'33 and Sir Colin Davis to 14'38. Two minutes slower, as you can see. In my view Vänskä tries to smuggle his own strange theatre to the music. Of course there are some lovely moments, for example in the Symphonies Nos. 4 and 6.
I don't have negative comments about the recordings of BIS. Using the best available equipment the spacious and sonorous acoustics of the Minnesota Concert Hall have been captured in an exemplary manner.
Now I'm listening to the finale of Symphony No. 6. Again, too aggressive tone. The gentle coda of the movement should be very smooth and beautiful, I think. But now one feels that the cigar chokes the throat of the Finnish composer. And unfortunately the religious melody at the end sounds too fast and too stressful.
Sadly, not recommended. Try the Sibelius: Symphonies 1-7 - Kamu. Next year we will hear the rest of Sir Colin Davis's Sibelius/Philips cycle, I hope so".
- Performance: ***
- Sonics: ***** (Stereo)

Comment by Mark Werlin - August 9, 2016 (12 of 14)

Reviews of Vänskä's concert performance of the Sibelius 3rd at Carnegie Hall earlier this year were excellent. See the New York Times and New York Classical Review, both published March 4, 2016. The Guardian gave the BIS SACD 5 stars (top rating).

It was my good fortune to see maestro Vänskä conduct the San Francisco Symphony several years ago. I found his interpretations enthralling and insightful. Carping reviewers who dismiss his recordings are in the minority: he has justifiably earned high respect from the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, discerning concert audiences and SACD collectors.

Comment by William Hecht - August 9, 2016 (13 of 14)

Gwynn Parry-Jones reviewed this as a "recording of the month" on Music Web International calling it "magnificent and authoritative". I mean no disrespect to our site reviewers whose work I greatly appreciate, but basing opinions solely on what reviewers have to say is pointless, they're human beings with enthusiasms and blind spots just like the rest of us. I'm old enough to remember when Gramophone's resident Karajan hagiographer actually praised his recording of the Nielsen 4th for NOT having a fill-up, so that even short measure was a plus when it came to a Karajan recording.

Also, I agree with Luukas that parts of Vanska's Minnesota 2nd are too slow, unlike the gripping performance he conducted here in Philadelphia a few seasons back, but since the discs in Vanska's set are separate issues I fail to see the relevance. Timings in all but two movements on this disc are within a few seconds of Kamu's excellent renditions and of those one is slower and one is faster. In the final analysis each of us responds to the music/performance/recording in his own way so it's largely irrelevant that I find this the more compelling recording of 3, 6, and 7. I'd just urge anyone who loves this music to hear the disc for himself.

Comment by hiredfox - August 9, 2016 (14 of 14)

Luukas' experience with this disc rung a chord with me. I have not heard the disc as such but his allusion to Vänskä being overly-aggressive with the 6th & 7th fits perfectly with our experience in London a few years ago when he subbed at short notice for Sir Colin Davis's anniversary concert at The Barbican due to the ill health of maestro SCD - from which illness, sadly he never recovered. Vänskä took up the baton for the original programme which included the 6th & 7th and the VC. He was really aggressive with both symphonies to the extent in our view of losing a lot of the insightfulness of both works