The Sound of Sibelius - Vänskä

The Sound of Sibelius - Vänskä


Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Karelia Suite Op. 11, The Wood-Nymph Op. 15, The Swan of Tuonela Op. 22 No. 2, Lemminkäinen's Return Op. 22 No. 4, Spring Song Op. 16, Valse triste Op. 44 No. 1, Scene with Cranes Op. 44 No. 2, Finlandia Op. 26

Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä (conductor)

The present recordings of The Swan of Tuonela, Lemminkäinen's Return and Finlandia are previously unreleased. Stereo versions of the original 5.0 surround sound recordings of the Karelia Suite, The Wood-Nymph, Spring Song, Valse triste and Scene with Cranes have appeared in the BIS Sibelius Complete Edition. For inclusion on this hybrid SACD they have been remixed.

Regularly described by reviewers as 'the pre-eminent Sibelius interpreters of our day' (American Record Guide) and 'the Sibelius orchestra and conductor of the moment' (International Record Review), Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra have become synonymous with idiomatic, pioneering and authoritative interpretations of the music of Jean Sibelius. In fact the team's very first Sibelius recording, in 1991, caused a sensation: juxtaposing the final version of the composer's famous violin concerto with the original version - never before recorded - made for a disc that was of eminent interest to the world of classical music, as witness the Gramophone Award that it received upon its release. But the recording, with soloist Leonidas Kavakos, was also praised for its artistic quality, and is still, almost twenty years later, considered a classic account of the work.

The Lahti / Vänskä team went on to record the well-known Sibelius works - the seven symphonies, the tone poems, Kullervo - as well as a large amount of music that had hitherto been all but ignored. The fruits of their long involvement with the composer now form the orchestral back-bone of the ongoing Sibelius Edition on BIS, and have been of great interest to Sibelius specialists and music-lovers alike. The present programme unashamedly glories in some of the composer's most popular pieces, all in the versions familiar to concert audiences around the world. Recorded in 5.0 surround sound during sessions in 2006 and 2007, the performances constitute a sonic spectacular - and some of the last Sibelius recordings by a legendary team.

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PCM recording

Recorded in November 2006 and in May 2007 at the Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland

Producer: Robert Suff

Sound engineer: Hans Kipfer

Equipment: Neumann microphones; Stagetec Truematch microphone preamplifier and high resolution A/D converter; MADI optical cabling; Yamaha 02R96 digital mixer; Sequoia Workstation; Pyramix DSD Workstation; B&W Nautilus 802 loudspeakers; STAX headphones

Editing: Elisabeth Kemper, Bastian Schick, Nora Brandenburg, Christian Starke

Mixing: Hans Kipfer

Executive producer: Robert Suff


Stereo versions of these original 5.0 surround sound recordings of the Karelia Suite, The Wood-Nymph, Spring Song, Valse triste and Scene with Cranes have previously appeared in the BIS Sibelius Complete Edition. For inclusion on this hybrid SACD they have been remixed.
Reviews (1)

Review by John Miller - February 26, 2010

Vänskä and the Lahti orchestra have made formidable contributions to the Sibelius discography. BIS celebrate this on a single SACD, generously filled (78'13") with 10 works from the composer's tone poems and theatrical music. Most of these are unashamed favourites, with Wood-Nymph and Spring Song perhaps less frequently gracing concert programmes, and therefore most welcome.

Stereo versions of the Karelia Suite, The Wood-Nymph, Spring Song, Valse triste and Scene with Cranes appeared as RBCDs in the BIS Sibelius Complete Edition. They were, however, captured as original 5.0 surround sound recordings and for this SACD they have been remixed.The Swan of Tuonela, Lemminkäinen's Return and Finlandia recordings are previously unreleased.

The apt title of this disc refers to Sibelius' phenomenal ear in capturing the sounds and sights of his native landscapes, transforming them into music with masterly orchestrations. Listeners may be familiar with the RBCD versions of the works on offer, excellently balanced and sonically impressive as they were. In their SACD guise, especially in their 5.0 surround, the true sound of Sibelius emerges in all its glory. An amazing amount of scoring detail emerges. For example, the composer's frequent string tremolos and rhythmic ostinati are sharply focussed as integral textures within a dynamically layered sound, rather than being generalised and blurred.

Many subtleties of nuancing and phrasing also emerge newly-minted. There is plenty of extended bass, especially from the thunderous bass drum and deeply-digging string basses. String tone in general sounds more refined, with sumptuous tone in multi-divided parts, and subtle details of bowing emerge. Cymbals have real sheen, and even the piccolo no longer draws undue attention to the higher range. The Lahti orchestra's excellent brass choir (including the horns) are true powerhouses at climaxes,richer upper partials adding to their abilities in the 'shock and awe' department. The dynamic range too is phenomenal, indeed a test of one's system, and at the pianissimo level and below, the ambient noise floor of one's listening room.

Overall the recordings are quite close, yet with plenty of air to expand into. There is therefore a wide sound-stage with good depth perception, and the compilers have managed to minimise any changes in microphone positioning and acoustics from different sessions.

Most of these performances have already had plaudits for interpretation and playing. My particular favourite here is the Wood-Nymph; an impressionistic poem which is mostly pure orchestral effects, with very few 'tunes' but tremendous colouristic atmosphere. Vänskä directs the orchestra sure-footedly through its series of slow-burning crescendi, each one unfulfilled, until the final primaeval climax, with tension which is almost unbearable. The new Swan of Tuonela glides over the dark waters with unruffled movement, at a slightly more flowing tempo than often heard; the cor anglais solo is at one with the scene - and here again a myriad of scoring details emerge to delight the ear. Lemminkäinen returns with bold energy and enthusiasm, while a blazing Finlandia brings the disc to a close, leaving us in no doubt about the Nationalist fervour it evoked in a people under the Tsarist yolk.

An excellently planned programme which would be an ideal starting point for newcomers to the art (and now the sound) of Sibelius. Even if experienced collectors already have the RBCDs, these multi-channel reincarnations in higher-definition garb will repay acquiring this issue, not to mention the excellent new items.

Copyright © 2010 John Miller and


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Sonics (Multichannel):

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Comments (1)

Comment by Waveform - November 8, 2017 (1 of 1)

Ever since I discovered and purchased this marvelous SACD a couple of years ago I have hoped BIS would to be released Sibelius rarities* as such on Super Audio CD with added 5.0 Surround Sound.
[Aside: Despite few rare titles in 24-bit none of the recordings below were recorded in high-resolution audio back then; they all were captured in 44,1/16 CD resolution using carefully selected microphones and post-production editing tools in order to maintain the dynamics of the actual recording sessions as accurately as possible (so-called BIS Original Dynamic Recordings).]
Although Robert want to keep his grip on quality over quantity and despite he has told us BIS will not certainly release albums with fake surround sound I've seen the reasons - integrated to the text below - why they should fulfill this project that seems to be a dream of most for us:

I strongly believe all the compositions below are works that will not receive Super Audio CD release in decades of counted from this day ahead. First of all they're so rarely heard works that most of us are not aware of their existence, I think! When the situation is like this and when BIS has indeed released these for us (what other record labels would have not done, I assume) they should offer this SACD re-release as an limited edition box set with cardboard disc sleeves featuring original album artwork, designed especially for audiophiles. I don't believe the engineers have destroyed the original digital tapes used during the post-production processes and using them as the source they're most likely able to create pretty impressive DSD Surround Sound beside DSD Stereo and CD Audio in the manner of Bach: The Sacred Cantatas - Suzuki. And although it's a harsh fact - converting materials from PCM to DSD does not change anything - this potential box set could be an alternative for those who want to listen to these recordings in 'high-resolution'.

*) - Theatre Music (original complete scores): Kuolema (Death), King Christian II, Pelléas and Mélisande, Belshazzar's Feast, Swanwhite, Scaramouche, Jederman (Everyman), The Tempest
- Incidental music: Music for the Days of the Press, Ödlan, The language of Birds
- Orchestral Works: Overtures in E major and A minor, Ballet Scene, Lemminkäinen Suite (original version), En Saga (original version), Symphony No. 5 (original version), The Oceadines (original version)
- Works for violin and orchestra: Violin Concerto (original version), Humoresque No. 1 in D major (original version)